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Toucans in Costa Rica

Toucans are some of the strangest and most exotic looking birds on the planet. They have huge, colorful bills, look kind of like flying bananas when taking to the air, and make odd croaking and yelping sounds. Not to mention, toucans also happen to be intelligent, comical birds that troop through tropical forests in search of fruiting trees, small animals, and bird nests.

Yes, that’s right, toucans are opportunists that eat almost anything they can find. Someone I know from Peru had a pet as a child and told me stories of how that pet toucan used to harass the family dog for its own amusement. The toucan would creep up to to the dog and quickly reach out with its big bill to pull the dog’s hair. It would then just as quickly flutter up and out of reach of the poor dog as the family pet barked like mad.

While you won’t see toucans pulling tricks on dogs and people in Costa Rica, you do have a very good chance of seeing them at a number of sites. Here are the 6 species of toucans that occur in Costa Rica along with some of the best places to see them:

  • Keel-billed Toucan: This amazing bird with an incredible rainbow colored bill is often seen in moist forest sites on the north Pacific slope and in rainforests in the lowlands and foothills of the Caribbean slope. They occur in a number of areas with a few good sites being Rincon de la Vieja, outside Santa Elena town near Monteverde, Arenal, and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and many other forested sites in the Caribbean lowlands.

    Keel-billed Toucan.
  • Black-mandibled Toucan: This is the other large toucan in Costa Rica and is a bit bigger than the Keel-billed. The best places to see it are rainforests and rainforest edge in the humid Pacific lowlands and foothills, and the foothills and lowlands of the Caribbean slope. Among the many places for this species are the Osa Peninsula, Dominical, the Sarapiqui area and many other sites on the Caribbean slope.

    Black-mandibled Toucan.
  • Collared Aracari: This small toucan is common in many parts of the Caribbean slope. Watch for flocks in rainforest and gardens at sites around Arenal, Sarapiqui (including the Nature Pavilion where they visit feeders), and many other sites.

    Collared Aracari.
  • Fiery-billed Aracari: This species replaces the Collared Aracari on the south Pacific slope and also occurs at the University of Peace and some other sites near the Central Valley. Watch for it in any forested area in lowlands and foothills from Carara south to the border.

    Fiery-billed Aracari.
  • Emerald (Blue-throated) Toucanet: This beautiful little toucan is fairly common at highland sites throughout the country except the highest of elevations. Some of the better sites for it are the Monteverde area, at the Cinchona Hummingbird Cafe(where they often visit feeders), and just about any highland area with forest.

    Emerald Toucanet.
  • Yellow-eared Toucanet: This interesting toucan is also the most difficult one to see in Costa Rica. A shy bird of dense primary foothill forests of the Caribbean slope, this species is seen now and then at sites like Rara Avis, Braulio Carillo National Park, and Arenal.

    Yellow-eared Toucanet.

These toucan species and more than 500 other bird species are featured on our Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app. Try the free lite version to see how our app will help enhance your trip to Costa Rica.

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