Bubba has been excited about government giving him a tour guide license for birdwatching, and all week he's been acting like the world's greatest authority on birds. His excitement has influenced me to have this week's "Bird of The Week" be the National Bird of Belize. The Right Honourable George Price adopted the Keel-Billed Toucan on September 21st, 1981 when Belize became an independent nation.
They live in the forests of Belize, travel in flocks, eating the fruits of the jungle as they go. Toucans are among the few tropical birds that are widely known to non-ornithologists. The bill's color and great size is most probably the reason for this notoriety. The bill is composed of thin plates and is surprisingly light for its size.
Most oddities in nature can be explained by specialization but the toucan's need for a bill four times the size of its head is a mystery. One book I read suggested its use was picking fruits and berries from a perching position with little effort.
Its colors are startling, from its rainbow bill to its iridescent blue legs, few birds display such a variety of color. Its face, throat and chest are yellow with a narrow border of red on the chest; its body is black with red undertail converts and white upper tail converts. The plummage is soft and lax. The Keel-Billed has a patch of bare green skin around the eye and 'lores' (the area between the eye and bill). The feet are arranged in the 'zygodactyl' pattern like a woodpecker (two toes forward and two toes back).
The Keel-Billed, as most toucans, are gregarious, occurring in small flocks that roam together through the tree tops in search of a varied diet of fruit. Toucans are known to be frugivorous however,the Keel-Bill's diet includes insects, bird eggs and tree frogs. Flight for this bird is labored with bursts of flapping followed by a glide.
The call of the toucan could hardly be called song but rather a croaking noise similar to a frog, my book describes it as RRRK - RRRK - RRRK....or RRUK - RRUK - RRUK..etc., try that aloud a few times....in private!
Toucans roost throughout the year in holes of trees, often old woodpecker holes. Each flock has a number of dormitories in which several adults crowd with their tails folded over their backs to save space.
Clutches are of 2 or 4 white eggs which are incubated by both parents. Bubba got himself a little hat with an embroidered toucan on the front that says 'Tour Guide' and has been hustling tourists as they get off the plane for excursions into the jungle.
He looks ridiculous but is getting a lot of attention.