The national bird of the country of Belize, the keel billed toucan, will soon be calling the Faces of the Rainforest exhibit at Roger Williams Park Zoo home. 

This interesting toucan lives generally in tropical and sub-tropical rainforests from southern Mexico to Venezuela to Colombia. The bird is distinctive due to its black plumage, yellow neck and chest, blue feet, red feathers at the tip of the tail and a colorful bill that is mainly green with a red tip and orange sides.

The keel-billed toucan has feet with toes facing in different directions forward and backward. This odd configuration helps the birds, who spend a large amount of time in the trees, to stay on the branches of the trees and jump from one branch to another.

The bird’s bill can grow to be a third of the size of the toucan’s 20-inch body. Even though the bill may look cumbersome, it is light, and is made of protein and supported by hollow bones. The toucan’s very broad wings are heavy and make flight laborious.

The keel-billed toucan is most active during dawn and dusk, and tends to live in groups of six to 12 birds.  Monogamous pairs make their nests in natural or woodpecker created tree holes, taking turns incubating their eggs. Their diets consists mainly of fruits, but they may also dine on insects, lizards, tree frogs, and even eggs.

While many of the animals at Roger Williams Park Zoo are on the endangered list, currently the keel-billed toucan is not, but is threatened by human activity including habitat loss, and hunters who want the bird’s meat and feathers. At one time, the keel-billed toucan was popular in the pet trade but their poor disposition makes them bad pets.

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