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Aracari and Toucanet Overview – Captive Care of the Spot-Billed Toucanet

MacawToucans and their relatives are among the most recognizable of all birds, and highly desired as pets.  Captives can be most engaging, but few private bird keepers have room for the large, better-known species such as the Toco Toucan.  The smaller Aracaris and Toucanets, however, are more easily accommodated.  Today I’d like to continue with my overview of this delightful group of birds by introducing the Spot-Billed Toucanet, Selenidera malirostris (please see below for articles on the care of other species).

Natural History

Spot-Billed Toucanets are native to southeastern Brazil and adjacent portions of Argentina and Paraguay, where they favor primary rainforest.  In common with the 37-40 related toucan species, they mainly forage in pairs or family groups, and generally stay to the mid or upper levels of the forest (ground feeding has been observed, however). 

Field studies are lacking, but related species have been observed to consume nearly 100 different types of fruit.  Insects, lizards, treefrogs and bird eggs are also likely taken.


Spot-Billed Toucanets are as flashy as birds can be.  Jet-black, orange, red, dark green and blue are all represented in their plumage, with females being more subdued in coloration than males.  At 10 inches in length, they are among the smallest of the toucan family (Ramphastidae).  The distinctive bill markings distinguish them from their relatives.


Spot-Billed Toucanets adjust well to captivity, and like all toucans may become quite tame in time.  They seem to digest food slowly, which may explain their tendency to perch in one place for long periods of time.  However, they are otherwise active, curious birds, and should not be confined to a typical parrot cage.  A spacious aviary or bird room is essential for success with any toucanet.

Spot-Bills are hard on live plants and perches, and cannot tolerate cold weather.  While pairs are intolerant of others of their kind, they often do well with starlings, quails, jay-thrushes and similar aviary birds.


Toucanets will not thrive on a simple diet, and Spot-Bills are no exception.  A wide variety of local and imported fruits are essential to their well being.  A portion of their fruit should be cut into balls and rolled in a mix of commercial Insectivorous Bird Diet and chop meat.  Hard-boiled eggs and pink mice may be offered on occasion.

Live mealworms, crickets, locusts, silkworms and other commercially available and wild-caught insects are important foods, especially for parents with chicks.  Canned insects are an ideal means of increasing dietary variety.


Captive breeding, while not common, is possible in large, well-planted aviaries.  Courtship includes bill slapping, allo-preening and various bows and plumage displays, along with the “squawks” that pass for song in the toucan world.

Blackwoods WoodpeckerWhile all toucans are hole-nesters, individuals vary greatly in nest-site preference.  Therefore, a variety of hollow logs and deep nest boxes should be available.  Wild individuals usually occupy unused woodpecker nests (actually, toucans are placed within the same order, Piciformes, as are woodpeckers; please see photo).

Females produce 2-3 eggs which are incubated for 14-16 days. The chicks can be sexed via the difference in feather color by age 30 days, and fledge in 6-7 weeks.  Interestingly, captive Spot-Billed Toucanets have reared abandoned Green Aracari chicks.


Further Reading

Spot-Billed Toucanet natural history and a recording of their calls

Video of a gorgeous wild specimen

Keeping the Collared Aracari

Toucan species list and info

Spot billed Toucanet Male image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Gustavo Magnago
Blackwoods Woodpeckers image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Alastair Rae

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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