Meet the National Bird of Belize: The Keel-Billed Toucan 

by McNab Editorial Team

The keel-billed toucan is instantly recognizable for its huge orange, red and green beak. With its bright yellow face and blue legs, this friendly, colorful bird is a beloved local icon and the national bird of Belize.

In Belize, toucans are known as “bill birds.” Learn more about this fascinating fowl.


Where Do Keel-Billed Toucans Live?

Keel-billed toucans are native to the subtropical rainforests and jungles that range from southern Mexico through Colombia.

In the wild, toucans mostly hang out on the highest tree canopies. They rarely come down to the forest floor because that’s where they’re most vulnerable to predators. Toucans are not very good at flying and mostly hop from tree limb to tree limb.

“Bill birds” are very sociable. They can often be found playing together, hunting for food together and even sleeping together. In the wild, they travel in loose groups or colonies of about 20 birds.

Where Do They Nest?

Toucans make nests in tree holes, hollow tree stumps, and holes created by woodpeckers.

When a toucan goes to sleep, he tucks his beak behind his necks and pulls up his tail feathers to cover his face. The bird looks like a little ball of black feathers. You can often find a group of five or six of these “feather balls” sleeping in a nest together.

What Do Keel-Billed Toucans Eat?

They mostly eat fruit. Toucans are true early birds who rise at dawn to start foraging. They also eat insects, small lizards and occasionally the eggs of other birds.

What Is Their Beak Made Of?

The toucan’s beak looks hard and heavy, but it is made of keratin protein and tiny, delicate bones. It is actually light in weight and has a soft, spongy texture.

Are Toucans Intelligent?

Toucans are extremely intelligent. In captivity, they have shown an ability to learn games, mimic speech and even play tricks on other toucans.

Are Toucans Endangered?

Unfortunately, toucans are at risk because of habitat loss from deforestation in much of the tropics. They are also victims of the illegal pet trade, where they are valued for their unique looks and their intelligence. Conservation efforts by the Belize Audubon Society and other organizations are helping to maintain habitats for toucans throughout Belize.

Where Can You See Toucans?

You can see toucans all over Belize. Because they don’t migrate, they’re in the forests here year-round. Birders in Belize almost always spot keel-billed toucans here. You can also see them at the Belize Zoo and the many wildlife sanctuaries in Belize. 


Photo by Leonardo Melendez

Written by Larry Waight

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