The Amazing Toucan Bill


Swainson's Toucan and Green Aracar

Swainson's Toucan and Green Aracari


A little about the Toucan Family

Toucans are a family, Ramphastidae, of near-passerine birds from the neotropics (i.e. Southern Mexico, Central, South American, and Caribbean region).  The family is most closely related to the American Barbets.  Toucans are brightly marked and have large, colorful bills.  The family includes five genera and about forty different species. The name of this bird group is derived from Tupi tucana, via French.

Toucans range in size from the Lettered Aracari (Pteroglossus inscriptus), at 130 g (4.6 oz) and 29 cm (11.5 inches), to the Toco Toucan (Ramphastos toco), at 680 g (1.5 lb) and 63 cm (29 inches).  Their bodies are short, compact and of comparable size to a crow.  The tail is rounded and varies in length, from half the length to the whole length of the body.  Their neck is short and thick.  The wings are small, as they are forest-dwelling birds, who only need to travel short distances and the wings are often of about the same span as the bill-tip-to-tail-tip measurements of the bird.





The Toucan in Aztec Mythology

The ancient Aztecs believed that the Toucan's beak was created from rainbows.
It was said to be the Toucan’s reward for being messengers of the gods.  The Aztecs would perform rituals worshiping the Toucans, believing that because their beak was created from rainbows, the gods would grant them rain.  The ritual involved a member of the chosen family to wear a head-dress of Toucan feathers and plead with the Toucan for rain.  If rain did not come within three days, (according to the Aztec Calendar) it would be offered back to the gods on a pyre with a ceremonial burning.



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Copyright © 2011, Susie Christian