The toucans are most closely related to the American barbets. They are brightly marked and have large, often colorful bills. The family includes five genera and over forty different species.
They make their nests in tree hollows and holes excavated by other animals such as woodpeckersthe toucan bill has very limited use as an excavation tool. Toucans are usually found in pairs or small flocks. They sometimes fence with their bills and wrestle, which scientists hypothesize they do to establish dominance hierarchies.
The name of this bird group is derived from the Tupi word tukana, via Portuguese. The family includes toucans, aracaris and toucanets.
Toucans are native to the Neotropics, from Southern Mexico, through Central America, into South America south to northern Argentina. They mostly live in the lowland tropics, but the montane species from the genus Andigena reach temperate climates at high altitudes in the Andes and can be found up to the tree line.
For the most part the toucans are forest species, and restricted to primary forests. They will enter secondary forests to forage, but are limited to forests with large old trees that have holes large enough to breed in. Toucans are poor dispersers, particularly across water, and have not reached the West Indies. The only non-forest living toucan is the toco toucan, which is found in savannah with forest patches and open woodlands.
The toucans are, due to their unique appearance, among the most popular and well known birds in the world. Across their native range they were hunted for food and also kept as pets, and their plumage and bills were used for decorations. In some places anyone that discovers a nest is deemed its owner and is entitled to sell the birds within.
Of the 43 species Costa Rica tiene 6.