5 Birds That Look Like Toucans | A Comprehensive Bird Guide

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Do you know toucans? Even those who have never visited South America probably know one of these fruit-loving birds from the cheerful mascot of Fruit Loops cereal.

Toucans are a large family of birds that includes over 40 species. That family includes similar-looking–but different–species, the toucanets, and aracaris.

The members of the toucan family share bright markings, their distinctive, colorful, long bills, and the fact that they do not migrate.

They live in a range from southern Mexico to northern Argentina and prefer to live in tropical forests.

As unique as these dazzling birds seem to be, there are quite a few birds that look like toucans. Many other birds have similar colorful markings and striking, large bills. Can you tell them apart?

In this article, we’ll give you a run-down of toucan look-alikes, compare and contrast them with toucans, and answer your most frequently asked questions about birds with big, colorful bills.

When we’re done, you’ll know your toucans from your toucanets and much more!

Let’s take a look at these beautiful birds and their tropical world.

Your Toucan Copy-Cat Questions, Answered

What Kind of Bird Has a Colorful Beak?

Several species of birds have colorful or brightly marked beaks. Some examples include:

  • Toucans
  • Toucanets
  • Aracaris
  • Hornbills
  • Puffins
  • Black Skimmers
  • Flamingos
  • Emperor Penguins

As toucans do, birds that have red, orange, and yellow beaks get their color from carotenoids in the plants they eat. One study suggests that the brightness of these colors signals their social dominance and ability to fight for position.

Is Hornbill and Toucan the Same?

Hornbills and toucans are different families of birds that look similar thanks to convergent evolution. Both families live on trees, eating fruit and insects.

Hornbills live across Africa and Asia and have a distinctive feature called a casque on top of their bills.

Toucans have brightly colored, downturned bills but do not have a casque. They live in Central and South America.

Not all types of hornbills are brightly colored, but some look similar to toucans. They may have colorful beaks and facial markings on black bodies like many species of toucans.

Birds That Look Like Toucans

Green Toucanets

Green Toucanets

How They’re Different From Toucans

  • Smaller than toucans
  • Shorter bills
  • Mainly green in color

How They’re Like Toucans

  • Similar bill shape
  • Brightly colored
  • Found in the same range

Green toucanets are a genus within the toucan family that includes 7 species.

They are very similar to their toucan relatives and can be primarily told apart by their smaller size and mostly green color.

Like much of the toucan family, Green toucanets range from Mexico to Central and South America.

Types of Green Toucanets

  • Wagler’s toucanet (Aulacorhynchus wagleri)
  • Emerald toucanet (Aulacorhynchus prasinus)
  • Blue-throated toucanet (Aulacorhynchus caeruleogularis)
  • White-throated toucanet (Aulacorhynchus albivitta)
  • Black-throated toucanet (Aulacorhynchus atrogularis)
  • Groove-billed toucanet (Aulacorhynchus sulcatus)
  • Chestnut-tipped toucanet (Aulacorhynchus derbianus)
  • Tepui toucanet (Aulacorhynchus whitelianus)
  • Crimson-rumped toucanet (Aulacorhynchus haematopygus)
  • Yellow-browed toucanet (Aulacorhynchus huallagae)
  • Blue-banded toucanet (Aulacorhynchus coeruleicinctis)

Dichromatic Toucanets

Dichromatic Toucanets

How They’re Different From Toucans

  • Sexes are different colors
  • Most species are relatively small
  • Low-pitched croaking calls

How They’re Like Toucans

  • Large curved bills
  • Black bodies with colorful markings

Dichromatic toucanets have that name because, unlike most toucans, the male and female dichromatic toucanets are differently colored from one another–sexually dichromatic.

These birds live in South America’s rainforests, although one species is found in Central America. There are 6 species in this genus.

Dichromatic toucanets use their large bills to carve a cavity nest for their eggs, which both parents then incubate.

Types of Dichromatic Toucanets

  • Yellow-eared toucanet (Selenidera spectabilis)
  • Guianan toucanet (Selenidera piperivera)
  • Golden-collared toucanet (Selenidera reinwardtii)
  • Tawny-tufted toucanet (Selenidera nattereri)
  • Gould’s toucanet (Selenidera gouldii)
  • Spot-billed toucanet (Selenidera maculirostris)

Mountain Toucans

Mountain Toucans

How They’re Different From Toucans

  • Live in the Andes
  • Medium-sized
  • Blue and olive brown in color

How They’re Like Toucans

  • Similar bills
  • Brightly colored
  • Prefer forests

Mountain Toucans are a genus of just four species that live in the Andean Mountains of South America.

They’re medium-sized birds with similar coloring, with blue bodies and olive-brown backs.

These elusive birds prefer high elevations and are vulnerable to habitat destruction from industries such as logging.

Types of Mountain Toucans

  • Grey-breasted mountain toucan (Andigena hypoglauca)
  • Plate-billed mountain toucan (Andigena laminirostris)
  • Hooded mountain toucan (Andigena cucullata)
  • Black-billed mountain toucan (Andigena nigrirostris)

Aracaris

Aracaris

How They’re Different From Toucans

  • Smaller than toucans
  • Sharp and pointed tail

How They’re Like Toucans

  • Similarly bright colored with dark bodies
  • Long downward curving beaks

Aracaris are a genus of birds in the toucan family that is considered toucanets. Smaller than their toucan cousins, they live throughout the woodlands of the Neotropics.

Some species of Aracaris are especially social, roosting together in the same cavity nest throughout the year. Aracaris typically lay 2 to 4 eggs.

Types of Aracaris

  • Green aracari (Pteroglossus viridis)
  • Lettered aracari (Pteroglossus inscriptus)
  • Red-necked aracari (Pteroglossus bitorquatus)
  • Ivory-billed aracari (Pteroglossus azara)
  • Brown-mandibled aracari (Pteroglossus mariae)
  • Black-necked aracari (Pteroglossus aracari)
  • Chestnut-eared aracari (Pteroglossus castanotis)
  • Many-banded aracari (Pteroglossus pluricinctus)
  • Collared aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus)
  • Stripe-billed aracari (Pteroglossus sanguineus)
  • Pale-mandibled aracari (Pteroglossus erythropygius)
  • Fiery-billed aracari (Pteroglossus frantzii)
  • Curl-crested aracari (Pteroglossus beauharnaisii)
  • Saffron toucanet (Pteroglossus bailloni)

Hornbills

Hornbills

How They’re Different from Toucans

  • A different family of birds
  • Live in Africa and Asia, not South America
  • Casque, on top of their bills

How They’re Like Toucans

  • Large, downward-curving beaks
  • Some species have similar colors
  • Primarily eats fruit

Hornbills look and act like toucans, but they live in a completely different part of the world. These African and Asian birds are colorful and have big, downward-curving beaks. Much like toucans, they eat fruit primarily.

Hornbills have their first and second vertebrae fused to support the extra weight of their bills. They are the only birds in the world to have this trait.

When nesting, hornbills are usually monogamous, with the same pair using a nesting site again year after year.

Types of Hornbills

There are nearly 60 species of hornbills divided into 15 genera:

  • Tockus
  • Lophoceros
  • Horizocerus
  • Berenicornis
  • Bycanistes
  • Ceratogymna
  • Buceros
  • Rhinoplax
  • Anorrhinus
  • Ocyceros
  • Anthracoceros
  • Aceros
  • Rhabdotorrhinus
  • Penelopides
  • Rhyticeros

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Stevie Miller

Stevie Miller is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience. Her lifelong passion for birds began young, starting with a citizen science project at her aunt’s bird feeders, followed by a memorable first-time birdwatching trip to Assateague Island. Later, she got the opportunity to help birds directly while working as a veterinary assistant. Now she enjoys frequent time outdoors, traveling extensively to observe the birds, animals, and plants that inspire her writing and artwork.