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A Toucan as Pet?: 10 Questions to Ask
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A Toucan as Pet?: 10 Questions to Ask

Critter Culture Staff



Ever stared at a box of Froot Loops and felt a kinship with Toucan Sam? Hailing from the tropical rainforests of Central and South America, toucans are famous for their large and long beaks. Though they might seem similar to parrots, keeping a toucan is a different endeavor. It's illegal to own one in countries like Estonia, Finland, Portugal, and the UAE and U.S. states like Arkansas, Hawaii, Maine, Ohio, and Oregon. Toucans may be carriers of pathogens, and some suppliers are unscrupulous cogs in the exotic pet trade. If you're thinking about acquiring a toucan of sound origin, there are a few facts you need to know.


They aren't endangered

Toucan sitting on the branch in the forest Ondrej Prosicky / Getty Images

You'll be happy to learn that toucans aren't at risk of disappearing any time soon—the many toucan species out there are threatened by habitat deforestation, but not to an extent where they face extermination. Commercial import of CITES species is illegal, but there are successful breeding programs in the United States.


They're affectionate

Man and his domesticated toucan bird ajr_images / Getty Images

Wild toucans are challenging to tame, but hand-raised babies can become fun and rewarding pets. They're social, and in woodland environments, flock mates often play-fight each other. When they're relaxed, you'll hear a rattle-like sound, and you can pat yourself on the back for facilitating such contentment. You can train them to catch fruit and hop onto your shoulder, although you should do the latter with care. Various toucan species have different personalities, so do a little research to find the best fit for you. Tocos and Green Aracaris are rather loving.


They don't trail chaos in their wake

Parrots can go ape inside and outside their solid cages, wrecking cage bars, and household items like furniture and technology. On the other hand, toucans are often found in enclosures made of softer material in zoos and private homes, and mesh structures fare just fine. Depending on the climate where you live and where you have the most space, you can keep your toucans indoors or outside.


They're relatively quiet

Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus) Cyn Vargas Nature Photo / Getty Images

Talking parrots are all good and well, but they can give you an annoying earful with their loud squawking. Toucan vocalizations differ by species, but these birds are generally peaceful and only make noise when they're hungry or bored. They chirp, bray, growl, and croak their way through the day.


There's less bird dander to deal with

toucan sitting on a small stick iSailorr / Getty Images

Do you have asthma, or are you prone to allergies? Parrot dander can trigger an immune response that makes you feel itchy and blotchy. Toucans don't shed as much dander, so they're considered "hypoallergenic" and make great feathered friends for people who'd prefer not to sneeze and dab at runny noses.


They're active

Toucans are inquiring creatures that love hopping about from one branch to the next. Unlike parrots, they can't climb the sides of their enclosure to make the most of their lodgings, so they need room to roam. You'll enjoy watching them entertain themselves with toys and food. The way they toss and catch objects at the end of their beaks is pretty nifty.


They have longevity on their side

Sure, there are centenarian parrots out there, and a parrot may outlive you and protect you from any grief linked to its loss. But toucans live for about 25 years in captivity, so you could be privy to their antics for longer than most parents have their kids under their roof. Two decades of shared life and primarily pleasant memories is priceless and twice as long as you can expect to spend with cats and dogs.


They bark louder than they bite

And they're fairly quiet, so that should tell you that dangerous nips aren't on the horizon for would-be toucan owners. Parrots have been known to send their owners to the emergency room with bits of ears and tongues missing. Toucan beaks, however, are light and foamy for chewing softer foods. You'll want to steer clear of aggressive birds that might grip and shake, but, for the most part, a toucan bite is superficial and will draw only a little blood.


Toucans are high maintenance

It's prudent to mention the downsides to toucan ownership. Ethically caring for a toucan involves time and effort. Think hours spent feeding them and cleaning up after them to prevent attracting gnats and flies. If you don't provide enrichment and training, you'll have to manage many behavioral issues when the proverbial chickens come home to roost. These demands mean that you can't just up and leave when you're in the mood for a holiday without securing a reliable pet sitter. And when the novelty wears off, caring for your toucans may become something you resent because it takes away from work or your social life.


Toucans are expensive

toucan Photo by Leonel Lisa on Unsplash

Pet sitters are expensive, and they're just the top of the canopy. Feeding toucans significant volumes of food is pricey, and accommodating them in a large and comfortable space could cost you thousands of dollars. Without adequate nutrition or an aviary, your toucans' health can take a dip, and healthcare costs will have you shaking your head. Your local vet will have to draw blood, for example, and communicate with a softbill expert about the results.


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