Fascinating, beautiful, energetic and intelligent, toucans come in a variety of sizes, and have a range of colors on their body and magnificent beaks. They are for dedicated bird enthusiasts as toucans need more room than parrots, a different diet, a different cage setup, different toys, supplements, more cleanup and different handling.
Toucans originate from Southern Mexico down to parts of Central and South America. They do best when they live in large bird aviary or are free to hop around in a large bird room. In their cage, they need at least three or four perches to hop between, because they don’t climb as parrots do. The minimum cage size should be at least 4 feet wide by 4 feet tall by 8 feet long. They can be housed in a large macaw-sized cage, but only as long as they can remain out most of the day and are only put in the cage when the owner is out or when they sleep.
|Toucans need a lot of fruit in their diet.
Feeding toucans is a bit tricky compared to parrots and pet birds, because they need fruit daily — lots of it. I feed my toucans mainly papaya with bananas, blueberries and mango. I feed them an extruded softbill diet. The pellets stay in the cage all day, even when the fruit is eaten.
Whichever brand of pellet you use for your toucan, it should be made for softbills and be low in iron. A common health concern is hemochromatosis, or iron-storage disease, which is the leading cause of toucan deaths. Many owners unknowingly fed their toucans pelleted diets and other foods high in iron, which led to their deaths.
Toucans can sometimes have calcium deficiencies, so it is best if they are put in direct sunlight for an hour or so daily. They will get vitamin D3 from the sun’s rays, which will in turn help the birds absorb calcium from their food sources. They also will sit still with their beak open and wings stretched, enjoying the sun. This is a good time to bathe the bird. Once they get used to bathing, they enjoy it as often as possible.
Feeding a high-fruit diet requires more maintenance. Toucans love flinging their food, and fruit particles stick to walls, cage bars and floors, which attracts ants. You may get wasps if your toucan is housed outdoors, depending on your region. Hosing the cage weekly is pretty much a must, so invest in a rust-proof bird cage. Throw out all the uneaten fruit daily so that it does not spoil, and your bird doesn’t ingest it.
Safety issues arise when owning a toucan. They pick up food and flip it back in their mouth to swallow it, so any small object can be dangerous. Toucan-proof your house. If in an outside aviary, eliminate toxic berries or plants that could fall onto the cage. Toys should be large enough for them to play with but not pull pieces off and possibly swallow. Bells work well, as do rawhide, cloth and wood pieces.
Their legs are brittle, so unlike parrots, you cannot hold their feet just to keep them from jumping. You could end up mending a broken leg or toes. For this reason I would not use rope toys or string because they can also get them hung up on their legs.
If you leave them fully flighted, be careful. Their super speed can land them in trouble. Even with trimmed wing feathers, toucans can jump 4 to 6 feet easily. The last thing that you have to be very cautious of is any precious little bird that flies near the toucan. It will be grabbed in mid-air and possibly killed. This is instinctive to them.
Toucans are totally different than parrots, but great pet birds nonetheless. They enjoy being petted, especially on the beak, which is very sensitive. Although they cannot talk, they will entertain you with honks and grunting noises. They can learn to play catch with balls (which should be larger than something they can swallow) and will also learn to throw it back. The pets I’ve had will even get off the cage and come looking for me to hang out. They see you as their mate and will enjoy your company. If you cannot give a toucan the proper attention or time needed and you must own a toucan, do it a favor and get it a friend or a mate.