The national bird of Belize is the Keel-billed Toucan, or, as the locals say, “the bill bird”. It is clear why the locals call it the bill bird – as it seems to be almost all bill! In fact, measuring around 5-6 inches, the bill is nearly a third of the entire length of this little feathered friend. While it does seem large and cumbersome, it is in fact a spongy, hollow bone covered in keratin, which is a very light and hard protein.
The toucan’s bill is amazingly dexterous and allows the bird to feed on a variety of tropical forest fruits. It feeds by snipping off bits of fruit and flipping its head back to gulp the fruit. Toucans will also feed on insects, lizards, snakes and even the eggs of smaller birds.
The Keel-billed toucans are a very social bird and can often be seen in flocks of six or more birds. They are found throughout the Belize rainforest and nest in holes in tree trunks. This bird displays a rapid, heavy flapping of the wings when flying and a bit like a cross between a crow and – believe it or not – a frog!
Again, the little creature is tremendously social, loving to stay with the family – even if they are 6 or more in a little tree house. Mom usually lays 2 to 4 eggs and Dad shares the duty of incubating them. When the chicks are born, as they are featherless, they stay in their nest for approximately eight to nine weeks while their bills develop fully and they become ready to fly.
Once out and about, they will fly in their small groups, or play by using their beautiful bills to “spar” with each other.
This friendly and social animal has been known to make a good house pet – but be ready to truly lavish attention on it, as it will surely miss being with others of its kind.
If you are interested in bird watching in Belize, Chaa Creek is the perfect place to visit. The 365-acre Chaa Creek Nature Reserve is a sanctuary for almost 300 species of the world’s most spectacular birds. This abundantly rich natural environment is also home to a multitude of tropical plants and animals.