Flying bill

I mentioned earlier that our farm was placed at the foot of the Andes. Being more specific, it is part of the Yungas, a name derived from yunka in Aymara. It is defined as a stretch of forest on the eastern slopes of the Andes that is a transition zone between the latter and the lowland eastern forests extending from Peru to northern Argentina. A warm, rainy and humid area the Yungas are also a corridor through which many animal species move from North to South and viceversa.

The first time I saw the bird on this occasion was during one of our daily morning walks, I tried to immediately alert my wife about it as she was busy on the cellular phone “whatsapping” the children, taking advantage of the existence of a phone signal. “Hornbill” was the first word that I uttered and almost before I said it I recognized that I was not in Africa and realized what it was. “Toucan” I managed after it had flown away so my wife looked up, searched the surrounding forest and the sky and then turned her looks on me to see if I had finally succumbed to some retirement-related terminal brain melting.

Honestly, its flying style really reminded me of a Silvery Cheeked Hornbill (Bycanistes brevis), that other magnificent African bird: a burst of wing flaps and then gliding.

It was indeed a Toco toucan (Ramphastos toco), also known as the Common toucan or Toucan, the largest and best known species in the Toucan family (yes, the one of the “ancient” beer commercials). We knew they occurred in the area as we had seen them once some years back, feeding on some bitter tangerines in our garden.

The Toco toucan feeding on the Hawthorn berries.

The Toco toucan feeding on the Hawthorn berries.

Swallowing a berry.

Swallowing a berry.

Further search indicated that it is a non-forest bird with a large distribution in the continent and that our farm is located in the southernmost limit of its present distribution. The latter is apparently expanding as forests decline! It is a fruit-eater and it uses its bill to pluck them from trees. It -surprisingly for me- also eats insects, frogs, small reptiles and even small birds, including nestlings and eggs!

Finally yesterday it landed on our garden as the red ripe Hawthorn berries were too much of a temptation for eat. It was then that, through the glass of our kitchen window, I managed to photograph it as best as I could and to take a video before it flew off, leaving us wanting!

For the next few days I will keep an eye for it and try to get better shots.


  1. How nice to see mister (or miss) Toucan fit and alive and to hear your favorite radio at the same time! That beautiful bird reminds me of fantastic kids stories… way back then!


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