Costa Rica is known for its astonishing natural beauty, from its lush rainforests & hidden waterfalls to the vibrant wildlife that inhabits its lands. One beautiful, exotic bird species stands out among the many creatures that call this paradise home: the Toucan. With their brightly coloured bill, & their unique & cheery call, the Toucans in Costa Rica are beloved residents of the rainforest & favourite of avid bird photographers from around the world.
In this blog, illustrated with images captured during our Costa Rican photography tours, we will show off some of the species of Toucan found in Costa Rica, & display the beauty of these enchanting birds. From their vibrant plumage to their playful behaviour, there is much to discover about these remarkable creatures.
An Introduction to the Toucans of Costa Rica
Belonging to the Ramphastidae family, toucans are Neotropical birds with large, bright bills. Of the 40 species found in the Americas, six make their home in Costa Rica, making it the best place to capture images of these birds; of the six, we currently have locations on our tours for photographing five. Despite their sizable bills, they are lightweight due to their hollow, keratin-covered bone structure, often weighing just 16 ounces or less. This unique feature has developed over millions of years & allows them to consume fruits like papayas & bananas.
The three aracari, Cassin's, Collared & Fiery-billed, are toucanets, smaller relatives of the toucans such as the Keel-billed & Chestnut-mandibled.
Toucans are social birds & rarely seen alone. Toucans are highly adaptable in consuming a vast array of items in the wild such as fruits, berries, lizards, rodents, small birds, & insects.
Types of Toucans in Costa Rica
There are several types of Toucans in Costa Rica which are native to the country. These include the Keel-billed Toucan & the Chestnut-mandibled Toucan – plus their smaller cousins, the Collared Aracari, the Fiery Billed Aracari, the Cassin's Aracari & the Emerald Toucanet.
Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus)
The Keel-billed Toucan is a colourful & charismatic bird native to Central & South America. It is the national bird of Belize & is recognizable by its large, bright-coloured beak. It has a broad, multi-coloured bill with a red tip, & a black forehead. The rest of its body is primarily black, with a yellow chin & the area surrounding its eyes. It has a stubby red tail, & its blue legs & toes are short. It is an arboreal bird usually found in tropical & subtropical forests, where its diet consists mainly of fruits & insects. The vibrant colours of the Keel-billed Toucan make it a famous bird for bird photographers.
Chestnut-mandibled Toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus swainsonii)
The Chestnut-mandibled Toucan is a large & vibrant bird that tends to live in small groups & is often seen in pairs or larger families. It has a loud call that can often echo through the forest canopy. This species is an important seed disperser in its native habitat & therefore, it is a keystone species for the rainforest ecosystem.
Collared Aracari (Pteroglossus Torquatus)
The Collared Aracari is a colourful, small toucan native to the Central & South American rainforests. Collared Aracaris feed on a variety of fruits, as well as insects & small vertebrates. These birds are also quite vocal & make a variety of whistles & chirps.
Fiery-billed Aracari (Pteroglossus Frantzii)
The Fiery-billed Aracari is a species of Toucan native to Costa Rica & some surrounding countries. It has a unique, colourful plumage pattern that includes black, yellow, & white feathers, with a bright red-orange bill. This bird is known for its distinctive, loud call that can be heard from great distances. The Fiery-billed Aracari can be found in mid-elevation wet forests & is an important seed disperser, moving & planting seeds in the surrounding areas. These birds primarily feed on various fruits.
Emerald Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus Prasinus)
The Emerald Toucanet is a colourful, medium-sized bird found in the dense forests of Costa Rica. It has a distinctive emerald-green body with a bright bill & a black lower part, while the upper part is yellow. It measures around 29-37 cm in length & is found in the montane evergreen forests of the country, usually in elevations of between 1,000 & 2,500 meters. It feeds on fruits, insects, & some small invertebrates, forages for food alone or in pairs, & is best identified by its loud & distinctive call.
Yellow-eared Toucanet, aka Cassin's Aracari (Selenidera spectabilis)
Cassin's Aracari is a Toucan species native to Costa Rica. Cassin's Aracaris are primarily found in tropical & subtropical lowland forests as well as second-growth forests. They feed mainly on fruit & insects, & their diet also includes small lizards & birds. The Cassin's Aracari inhabits wet forested slopes & ridges, nearby secondary forests, & fruit trees close to the forest edge.
Tips for photographing Toucans in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful places in the world for toucan photography. Toucans, with their stunning & vibrant colours & playful personalities, make for great photographic subjects! Here are several considerations for a successful toucan photography experience in Costa Rica.
First, be sure to allow yourself plenty of time. Toucans can be pretty shy & skittish, so the more time you give yourself, the better the chances of getting your desired shot.
Secondly, use a long lens when photographing toucans since they are often perched high up in the trees; even when using a photography deck, you will be far from these beautiful birds. Typically you will require a telephoto lens. The type of image you hope to achieve impacts your choice of lens length. Should you want frame-filling photos, 600mm or more may be required; if you want to show off some of the bird's environment, then 400mm – 600mm will be ideal.
However, on many of the photography tours scheduled by NaturesLens, we use feeders frequented by the various types of toucans; this, coupled with photography decks at the correct height, ensures that you should be able to obtain high-quality images on our tours.
Which of Our Tours Are Suitable for Photographing Toucans in Costa Rica?
NaturesLens offer a range of wildlife photography tours to Costa Rica & all of which are suitable for photographing Toucans. All our Costa Rican Wildlife Photography Tours & Holidays have thoroughly planned itineraries to give our guests the best opportunity to get close to these fantastic birds. We use a variety of locations to ensure that our guests can capture spectacular images of Toucans in their natural habitat.
Our guides will provide you with the knowledge & skills required to capture the perfect image. You will also have the opportunity to explore the rainforests, try out local cuisine & get to know the local culture. This makes our Costa Rican photography tours & holidays an excellent choice for wildlife photographers.
About the images used in this article
All the images displayed above were taken by Ian Roberts, who has kindly allowed us to use them. Ian guides for NaturesLens, as well as attending many holidays, including several to Costa Rica as our guest.