Ecuador has five or six proper toucans: they are my kind of bird, being large and grand and brightly colored, so even I can see them. Most are sub-tropical, but some are montane species living in the Andes cloud forests on the Western slopes, like my first one.
This male Plate-billed Mountain Toucan was perched on a branch near his nest, and inside the nest hole his mate was sitting on their eggs. We thought he had brought food to sustain his lady-love, but eventually he selfishly ate this himself. The huge beak has serrated ‘teeth’, but despite this vicious-looking piece of machinery they are mainly fruit-eaters, supplemented by only occasional insects and lizards.
The nest is in a perfectly round hole in a tree, and the female was not visible, although the guides said they had seen her.
These are birds that really shouldn’t be able to fly: their bills are enormous, and they look ludicrously unbalanced. The mystery was solved for me a few years ago in Brazil, where my lodge had a toucan’s bill on display. It turns out they are extremely light, being made of bony struts filled with a spongy keratin-like material. The photo below shows off his fine wings, which must help manage that beak in flight.
My other toucans were Black-mandibled Toucans, also known as Yellow-throated Toucans, living in the sub-tropical Sumaco area on the Eastern slopes, in a large fruiting tree near my lodge:
They have bright blue feet, and flashes of red on the vent.
This one was part of a devoted pair, who spent long periods sidling up to each other, and taking turns grooming each other surprisingly delicately with those gigantic beaks.
A final check:
And time to pose for their portrait.
(In breeding season, pairs separate out from the larger flocks in which they mainly live.)