Toco Toucan Ramphastos toco

  • Order: Piciformes
  • Family: Ramphastidae
  • Polytypic: 2 subspecies
  • Authors: Carolyn W. Sedgwick


Distinguishing Characteristics

The largest of the toucans, Toco Toucans easily are identified by their enormous reddish orange bill, which is tipped with black. They have a broad distribution in South America and, unlike other toucans, spend little time in closed-canopy forest.

Similar Species

Rarely mistaken for other species of toucan because of its distinctive reddish orange bill with a black tip. Its vocalizations, however, sound similar to those of the Red-breasted Toucan (R. dicolorus) and the Channel-billed Toucan (R. vitellinus).  The Toco Toucan's grunts are deeper and the fast components of its vocalizations are slower than those of the Red-breasted Toucan (Short and Horne 2001). Compared with the Channel-billed Toucan, vocalizations of the Toco Toucan are lower in pitch (Sick 1993, Short and Horne 2001).

Detailed Description


Toco Toucans are the largest of the toucans. Male and female are similar in appearance but females average smaller. The majority of plumage is glossy black. The throat and upper breast are white, sometimes with a pale yellow wash. The lowermost feathers of the upper breast are tipped red, creating a narrow red band across the breast. throat feathers The bottom of the yellowish throat patch features a thin band of red feathers just above the black feathers of the breast. The uppertail coverts are white; the crissum and undertail coverts are red.


Young birds are paler than adults and have a shorter bill (see also Bare Parts). Most feathers are sooty instead of a glossy black  and the yellow and red of the throat are considerably muted (Short and Horne 2001). Rectrices of young birds usually are more pointed than those of adults and the tarsi feature hypotarsal "spikes."


Little information is available for Toco Toucans specifically, but most toucans molt during the second half of the year and occasionally even through February and March (Haffer 1974). Primaries and rectrices are replaced beginning with the innermost feather and proceeding outward while molt of the secondaries starts with the outermost feather and continues inward (Haffer 1974).

Bare Parts


Very large (see Measurements) reddish orange bill with black spot at tip of the maxilla. The iris is brown, pale brown, or light gray-brown. Orbital skin primarily bright orange or yellow, with a narrow, deep blue ring around the eye.


Bill is shorter, more yellowish in color and without the black spot at the tip.  The iris is surrounded by white orbital skin.

(Bare part colors from Short and Horne 2001)


The following measurements  for each subspecies are from Short and Horne (2001):

R. t. toco:

Wing length

male: mean 243.0 mm (range 222-256 mm, n=26)

female: mean 233.9 mm (range 220-254 mm, n=23)

Tail length

male: mean 155.0 mm (range 141-179 mm, n=23)

female: mean 150.7 mm (range 142-162 mm, n=22)

Bill length

male: mean 200.5 mm (range 173-215 mm, n=28)

female: mean 178.6 mm (range 158-202 mm, n=22)


male: mean 53.6 mm (range 49.0-57.0 mm, n=28)

female: mean 52.2 mm (range 49.0-55.4 mm, n=23)


640-800 g (male; n=2); 520-640 g (female; n=2)


R. t. albogularis

Wing length

male: mean 244.2 mm (range 233-260 mm, n=39)

female: mean 235.2 mm (range 222-255 mm, n=32)

Bill length

male: mean 186.8 mm (range 166-229 mm, n=42)

female: mean 165.4 mm (range 144-194 mm, n=32)


765-800 g (male; n=2), 500-695 g (female; n=4)

Recommended Citation

Sedgwick, C. W. (2010). Toco Toucan (Ramphastos toco), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.