Toucans are some of the most iconic birds of the Nootropics, if not in the whole world of birds. Their likeness has been used to promote ecotourism in the tropics as well as selling Irish stout in adverts. But nothing beats seeing a wild toucan in the “feather”.
There are 43 species of toucan in 5 genera that only occur in Central and South America. The five genera are: Aulacorhyachus, green toucanets (11 species), Pteroglossus, aracaris (14 species), Selenidera, dichromatic toucanets (6 species), Andigena, mountain toucans (4 species), and Ramphastos, typical toucans (8 species).
The Americas have cornered the market of these colorful, big-billed birds and on this trip to Northwest Ecuador, I have three species on my wishlist: crimson-rumped toucanet, Choco toucan, and plate-billed mountain-toucan. Out of all 1,600 birds that occur in Ecuador only one graces the cover of the seminal field guide, Birds of Ecuador. This was the bird that looks like it should be advertising sugar coated cereal to the youth of North America; this is the plate-billed mountain-toucan.
The crimson-rumped toucanet proved to be an easy bird to add to the list because it is a regular visitor to fruit feeders and we saw our first pair at the feeders of San Tadeo.
Out first sighting of the endemic, Choco toucan was in the lowlands at Rio Selache. Our views were far off and the toucan was backlit leaving me wanting better views.
A few days later at the fruit feeders of two Choco toucans flew in to have some banana. This time the toucan was 15 feet away!
A few days later, while heading up the dirt road to Bellavista, we heard the distant call of the plate-billed mountain-toucan. This was not a very satisfying view of this colorful toucan and we hoped to have better views as we headed up the road but we didn’t.
It wasn’t until we were heading back in the afternoon that two mountain-toucans crossed our path! We stopped the bus and got the birds in our bins as they foraged in the top canopy. This, the poster bird of The Birds of Ecuador was finally ours!