Toucan Do It!

Chef Yohn has been MIA (or just on vacation) but the animals at the Zoo still have to be fed! During his absence, there is plenty of work still happening in the Diet Kitchen – produce is cut, weighed and divvied up for each animal in the mornings and the same process occurs with meats and rodents in the afternoons. One of the animal’s diets that was prepared this morning was for a very special birthday girl, Tia the Toco toucan! Today is her 3rd birthday, so Tia and her Keeper, Tara, ventured outside to enjoy sun bathing and birthday snacks.

Toucans may appear to only eat fruit thanks to a popular cereal brand, but they are actually omnivores. In the wild, these colorful birds will eat any kind of fruit found in their South American tropical rainforest habitats, but they will also munch on small rodents, insects, frogs and other birds’ eggs. In fact, toucans are notorious for stealing eggs from Oropendola nests, which are harder for other animals to get into. Toucans’ small bodies and uniquely shaped beaks help make retrieving eggs from the droopy nests easy. Their beaks, although smooth on the top, are actually serrated like a knife – another advantage for the birds to use to break open eggs and prey on smaller animals.

Toucans also don’t chew their food, but instead grab it in between the tip of their beaks and toss it into the back of their mouth. Here’s a video of Tia demonstrating her catching ability and tossing back a yummy grape (her favorite!):

At the Zoo, Tia is fed a different diet than her wild counterparts, but still receives all of the nutrients she needs. Besides grapes, she also receives other produce such as kiwi, watermelon, sweet potato, peas and carrots, all of which are cut into tiny, toucan-sized pieces. She also receives a hornbill pellet diet, softened with water specifically for her taste.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Tia can be a picky girl. Zoo Keeper Tara says the bird is quite the diva and will often refuse to eat anything else if she sees grapes first. Tara offered Tia a range of her diet to pick from and Tia went for the grapes before anything else. It looks like everyone had a grape time doing this Animeals. While Tia is not on exhibit to the public, you can catch her at a ZooLive! presentation this summer. Happy Birthday Tia!