Look at the size of that obtuse bill! You must be setting your eyes on the vibrantly colored Keel-billed Toucan, the National Bird of Belize in Central America. The bird is notable for its canoe-shaped bill, which can grow up to 20 cm long, and its flamboyant green, red, blue and orange feathers. Although their bill can take up to 1/3 of their length, it is fairly light since it is made of a spongy, hollow bone covered in keratin.
This toucan is quite the loud, sociable, and playful bird. Their calls to one another resemble loud frog croaks that can be heard as far as a half a mile away! It is rare to find a single bird roaming around for they travel and live in groups of six to twelve adults. The toucans are often spotted in lowland rainforests, throwing berries at each other or jostling with their large bills. The precise use of their enormous bills is unsure but many speculate it is used to reach berries growing on weak branches or for courtship.
Their diet consists mainly of fruit but can extend to insects, reptiles, or eggs. To feed, the toucan will pick up a whole piece of fruit and tilt its head back, having the fruit slide down its throat intact.
Currently, the Keel-billed Toucan is threatened by deforestation. The Space Archaeology program and the University of Central Florida, University of Florida, Space Research Initiative have introduced new findings regarding research based on Belizean forests. Researchers stated, “Addressing the problem of deforestation/forest degradation is critical as, during the 2009-11 archaeological field seasons (January-March), the sounds of chainsaws were heard almost daily by researchers working near the epicenter which is located H”6 km from the border. Researchers repeatedly stumbled upon small cleared areas, some with planks remaining and evidence of horse paths that were used to transport the lumber.” Rainforest clearing for human colonization, mining, logging businesses, and coca and palm farming purposes have been demolishing animal habitats including that of the Keel-billed Toucan, at a rapid rate. The toucans are also hunted as trophies or for decorative purposes because of their colorful appearance and high intelligence.
According to UPI.com, Central America had the highest rainforest percent loss of 1.19 percent/year between 2000 to 2010 compared to 0.13 percent/year worldwide. In the next 50 years, scientists estimate that nearly all tropical rain forests worldwide will be destroyed. Rain forests would be ecosystems of our past if change isn’t made now! Each of us can make a difference however big or small towards protecting rain forests and helping animals who are losing their homes and precious lives from deforestation and reckless hunting.
Programme For Belize is a non-profit rainforest conservation charity that helps raise funds to protect Belizean nature reserves and to save threatened species. The Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area is its flagship project where research is done on safe resource usage and prevention and reserve designs are created to prevent deforestation. To join the fight in saving Belize’s rainforests and the critters inhabiting it, you can donate on their website at http://www.pfbelize.org/conservation/
If you would like to save the beautiful species of the rain forests from endangerment, especially the adorable Keel-billed Toucan, act now before it’s too late!