No bird, with the possible exception of the macaw, is the quintessential neo-tropic poster bird than the toucan. These large birds with massive colorful bills, look back at us from tourist brochures, boxes of sugar-coated cereal, and Guiness beer ads. Almost everyone, from around the world, can identify this bird, even if they have not seen one flying in the wild. I was finally going to see one!

Our first stop after leaving our hotel in the outskirts of San Jose was La Selva Biological Station. La Selva was the first private reserve and field station in Costa Rica, it’s genesis going back to 1953, decades before the rise of ecotourism. The birding at La Selva is sensational, the reserve logging 467 species of birds and the reserve includes half a million species including plants and trees, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.

On our morning walk to the dining hall, we passed through the forest. We approached a clearing in the canopy and I saw am unmistakable black-bodied, large-billed bird, “Toucan!”, I exclaimed. It was a yellow-throated toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus). In the same tree, flew in another toucan, the collared aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus). Not a bad haul for our morning walk.

A yellow-throated toucan perched in a clearing near out lodgings at La Selva. Even from a distance, these birds stand out.


The collared aracari. This individual was attacked by a tropical kingbird. While fruit make up a large portion of it’s diet, nest robbing is also one of it’s sources of food.

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