Toucans have fascinated Americans since childhood, when they met Toucan Sam on the front of their Froot Loops cereal box. Toucans are attractive birds, originating from the rainforests of Central and South America where they have an uncanny knack for scrunching their bodies into small holes or cavities in the trees.

Common Characteristics

  • Size: 1 to 20 pounds
  • Lifespan: 16 to 25 years
  • Pet purchase cost: $1000+
  • Allergies: Mild
  • Shedding: Mild
  • Primarily suited for indoors


There are nine main species of toucans that have withstood captivity to some degree with experienced trainers and handlers:

Collared Aracari Toucan

Curl-Crested Toucan

Emerald Toucanet

Green Aracari Toucan

Guyana Toucanet

Ivory Billed Aracari Toucan

Keel-Billed Toucan

Swainson’s Toucan

Toco Toucan

As Toucan Sam (who is a Toco Toucan, by the way) will tell you, the toucans are “frugivores,” meaning animals that eat fruits. In fact, this exotic bird is able to consume little more than fruit. You cannot find this bird in pet stores, only in zoos. They require specialized care, climate, and habitat, and PetStarter does not recommend their adoptions into homes.

Common Reasons for Surrender

Toucans are extremely difficult to keep alive and most rescuers have not worked with them.


The toucan can be fascinating in animal flight shows where they are trained by professionals and incredible birds to observe in the wild, in their natural habitat. Probably the most outstanding features of the toucan are his splashy colors and large bill. But, the toucan is an exotic bird that should not be adopted as a family pet.


The toucan is not a “hands on” bird and does not bond with her owner like a parrot can. Like most fruit eaters, this breed is extremely messy, slinging food wherever they can around their cage. Toucans don’t sing or talk, but they croak, purr, bark, bugle, and make a lot of noise.


Toucans are very sensitive and need an iron-free diet. Much like the mynah parrot, the toucan needs all types of fruit which can be chopped into small pieces so it is easy for it to swallow. Toucans must have a mixture of food that is low in iron. Toucans cannot get rid of the iron in their bodies, and if they have too much iron in their diet, it will kill them due to iron retention in the liver.


The toucan needs a large aviary or flight where she can stretch and hop about. Time out of her large cage must be closely supervised or the toucan will get into mischief.

Possible Health Issues

The toucan is not meant for captivity but thrives in her natural habitat in the rainforests of South America. If forced into captivity, most toucans die of iron retention disease due to absorbing iron into their bodies when they do not have the ability to store it properly.


The toucan needs to remain in his natural habitat in the rainforests of South America.


Wing clipping is not recommended.


The toucan can be trained by professionals to perch outside her cage on your hand or on a branch by using positive reinforcement such as offering a favorite toy or fruit for obeying the direction given by the trainer.


Toucans have been used in Disney World in a free flight bird show and taught to chase food thrown into the air.

We want to thank the Exotic Bird Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida; Avian Rescue Corporation (ARC), Concord, California; and Feathered Friends Forever, Harlem, Georgia, for help with this profile.

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