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Toucan

species, bill, birds and black

TOUCAN, too-kan' or too'kan, a family (Rhamphastidcr) of coccygomorphous birds somewhat resembling the hornbills, and distin guished by the great development of the bill, which is curved superiorly and bears a promi nent keel, with cutting edges frequently toothed. The outer walls of the bill are extremely thin, its interior is hollowed out into air-cells, and it is thus rendered comparatively light. The tongue is slender and barbed along the sides. The toes are paired, two forward, two back ward and the tarsi scuttelated, the wings rather short and the tail long, with 10 quills. The toucans are confined to tropical America, where about five genera and 60 species occur. They are birds of brilliant and striking plumage, and the bill and naked skin about the eyes partake of this brightness of hue. Most of the species are gregarious, spending most of their time in hopping actively about among the treetops and seldom flying far. The times of their greatest activity are the morning and evening, when the woods are filled with their loud harsh cries. While fruits are their chief food, insects and the eggs and young of birds are also eaten. They haye a characteristic manner of throwing back the head and bolting their food. When sleeping the head and tail are turned toward each other and rest on the back. All of the

species, so far as known, nest in holes in trees, the birds sometimes excavating a suitable place in a decayed stub. Only two white eggs are depdsited.

The following are some examples of the species, many of which are familiar in the col lections of zoological gardens. The toco toucan (Rhamphastos toco) is black with a black and orange bill, blue circumocular areas and white throat and rump. It is nearly two feet long and inhabits Argentina. A well-known relative is the ariel (R. oriel). The aracari (Pteroglos sus aracari) is green with the head and throat black and the bill black and white. A related species (P. beauharnaisi) is dark green with the lower back crimson, the belly yellow and red and the bill black, orange and white. Both of these are found chiefly in the forests of the Amazon Valley. A well-known species is Selen idera spectabilis, in which the sexes are unlike. The hill toucan (Andigena bailloni) of the low lands of Brazil, has the head, neck and lower parts orange yellow. Consult Sclater, 'Cata logue Birds British Museum,' XIX (London 1891) ; Bates, 'Naturalist on the River Amazon' (London 1863): See HORNB1L,L.