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The keel-billed toucan Ramphastos sulfuratus is commonly known as the rainbow-billed toucan due to its highly coloured bill. They are also known as the sulfur-breasted toucan as they have a bright yellow patch on their breasts. They are one of the smaller species of toucan measuring up to 38cm in length, but with one of the largest bills.

Doug Greenberg Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0


The keel-breasted toucan is a medium-sized, highly colourful bird. The nape, crown, back, tail and wings are all black, while the rump is white with blue feet.

They have pale blue skin around a brown eye, while the sides of the face, chin and breast are yellow with a narrow border of crimson red around the breast. The underparts are black, except for crimson under tail coverts.

The bill is the standout part of the keel-breasted toucan. The tip is orange-red, with a yellow ridge, green sides, and a wedge of orange on the upper mandible and blue on the lower mandible. The base is lined with black. This gives them their common name of the rainbow-billed toucan.

They can be found from eastern Mexico, through South America to Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and also in Trinidad.

The red-breasted toucan feeds on fruit plucked from trees along with a diet of large insects, especially in the breeding period. They will also feed on lizards, snakes, and small birds.

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Red-breasted toucans are noisy and can be heard making a loud “crek-crek” sound. This has been likened to a frogs croak or even pigs grunting. They are hard to spot in the trees, but their calls can go on for several minutes and can be heard quite a distance away.


Red-breasted toucans use the same nest for several years in succession. They normally lay four, rounded, white eggs in a natural cavity in a forest tree high in the tree away from predators. They do not line the nest as their bills do not allow them to collect nesting material. Incubation is shared between the male and female who also both feed the chicks.

Chicks are born naked and are helpless for the first few weeks. The chicks are born blind and can see after three weeks. After eight weeks they may leave the nest to fend for themselves. When in the nest they are fed fruit from their parents.

Red-breasted toucans fledge forty-four days after hatching. Although born makes, they soon get their full adult plumage, although their bills do not get their colour until their second or third year.


There are two subspecies of the keel-billed toucan.

Ramphastos sulfuratus sulfuratus

Found in northern Guatemala, Belize, and southeastern Mexico.

Ramphastos sulfuratus brevicarinatus

Found in north-western Venezuela, northern Colombia, and southeastern Guatemala.

Want to know more about toucans?  Find out 20 facts here