Outdoors Magazine

Keel-billed Toucans, Pico Bonito National Park, Honduras

By Stabone @stabone


If you have been following my blog recently, you know that in late January/early February, I was at Pico Bonito National Park, in Honduras. Pico Bonito National Park is a pristine neotropical environment consisting of rainforests and cloud forests. The park encompasses the Cordillera Nombre de Dios mountain range and is the perfect, unspoiled habitat to an extraordinary variety of wildlife and about 400 species of birds.

Keeled-billed Toucan in Tree

Prior to going to Honduras, and having researched Pico Bonito, I noted that it was the home to Keel-billed Toucans. I was hoping to see at least one toucan and excited that I might be able to photograph one. I had seen toucans in captivity many times, but never in their own environment. They were on the top of my list of wildlife to see and photograph.

Keel-billed Toucan

Keel-billed Toucans are also known as Rainbow-billed Toucans, for obvious reasons. They are large birds ranging between 17 to 22 inches in length, which includes their bill. Their very large bill is about one-third of their length, and although it appears very cumbersome, it is very light, mostly hollow, and covered in keratin–the same protein substance in human hair and fingernails.

Keel-billed Toucan 2

Keel-billed Toucans have blue legs and feet, which compliment their very colorful bodies and bills. Their feet also are unusual because they have two toes facing forward and two facing back, which helps them hold on to and hop from tree branch to tree branch, which is where they spend most of their time.


The toucans were most active early in the morning and at dusk, and were located high in the top of trees. They eat mostly fruit and berries, but also eat insects, bird eggs, reptiles, and tree frogs. It was interesting seeing them feed, because they grabbed the fruit in the end of their bill, and tossed it up and swallowed it whole.


Keel-billed Toucans are very social birds and are rarely seen alone. Most of the toucans that I saw were in pairs, and the males and females were indistinguishable. They nest in tree cavities and raise one to five young. Both the male and female incubate the eggs and take turns feeding them. Unfortunately, when I was in Honduras, the toucans were not nesting. I was told that they lay their eggs and raise their young in late February and March.


As you can see from the images in this article, I was very fortunate to not only see toucans, but also to photograph them in several locations. I did not see many, but I did see at least one or two pairs everyday, and I was thrilled to see them each time.


All of the images in this article were photographed with a Nikon D800, 600mm f4 VRII lens and TC14 teleconverter, and using an SB900 Speedlight with a Better Beamer. The toucans may appear close in these images, but they were far up in the tree top canopy and often backlit, shaded, or in the dim light of the early morning or very late afternoon sun.

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