Keel-billed Toucan Ramphastos sulfuratus

  • Order: Piciformes
  • Family: Ramphastidae
  • Polytypic: 2 subspecies
  • Authors: Revee Jones and Carole S. Griffiths

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


Ordinarily a single note, a shrill, frog-like cree which it repeats over and over, in a series of about five to seven notes. The series follow each other with such regularity that the punctuation can only be seen and cannot be detected by ear. At the beginning of each series of notes the toucan jerks its head and tail up. These are dropped at each succeeding note. At about the sixth note, the head and tail are jerked up again. The series begins with a low crr, crr, crr, then a louder cra, cra, cra and finally a shrill cree, cree, cree.

The voice is quite loud and can be heard more than half a mile across the open. The rate of calling is regular and varies on different occasions between ninety and a hundred notes to the minute. The female of the pair tends to have a higher pitch. Songs are often duets and sometimes several call at one time, creating a chorus-like affect resembling a pond of frogs.

The only other vocalization is a low mechanical rattle produced vocally but similar to that produced by clattering the mandibles together. It is of short duration - eight or ten notes.

Adults are most active vocally during the early part of the breeding season but are still noisy even during the height of the molting season. They continue calling all through the day. The first calls are not heard until sunrise or about five minutes before, long after the general chorus of bird-song has begun. On clear evenings they cease calling at sunsets. Calls have not been heard at night (Van Tyne 1929).

Hatchlings have a buzzy call, while the call of juvenal toucans has a whining or wailing sound  (Van  Tyne 1929).

Representative recordings of vocalizations of the Keel-billed Toucan can be heard at
xeno-canto and at the Macaulay Library.

Nonvocal Sounds

Wingbeats produce "loud rushing sound at close range" (Howell and Webb 1995).

Recommended Citation

Jones, R. and C. S. Griffiths (2011). Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.