Toucans and their smaller relatives, the toucanets, are birds that were once more common as pets than they are now. I recall 40 year years ago seeing one in a department store pet store in a tiny cage, today you rarely see them in pet stores, and some species that were common as pets even 30 years ago are very hard to get now. They are from Central and South America.
Toucans and toucanets are quite different from parrots, they are considered “softbills”. The term softbills is not related to the hardness of their beak, but rather is concerned with the foods they eat. Toucans and toucanets eat fruits and berries rather than seeds and nuts.
In captivity a proper diet consists of at least 50% fruits and berries, and the rest of the diet can be met with a special food for softbill birds. They should not be given citrus fruits, nor should they be fed other pet foods. Some sites will tell you they can eat dog food but this is incorrect and will shorten your bird's life.
One advantage of owning a pet toucan or toucanet over a parrot is that they are quieter, and do not scream like parrots can. Another advantage is that they make less mess. There are no seeds or shells to clean up, and there feces are odorless. They can bite, but cannot bite as hard as a parrot.
The biggest disadvantage is that toucans and toucanets require more space than a parrot. They cannot be trained to “talk”.
Toucans and toucanets can be tamed to do tricks and are generally considered to be quite smart, another reason why they need large, roomy cages, and time out of their cages. Without enough mental stimulation they are prone to boredom and mental problems.
For some people the shorter lifespan of a toucan (being 20 – 25 years) can be an advantage when compared to a 60 year lifespan, or more, of some parrot species. Toucanets may have slightly longer lifespans.
Toucans, and toucanets, especially when hand raised, can be friendly as pets.
Different species of toucan, or toucanet, will have slightly different behaviors. In most cases males and females have the same colors, one exception to this is the Guyana toucanete.
Some of the more common species of toucan in the pet trade include the Toca (biggest), Keel billed (most playful), Swainsons (most common and most noisy). Some of the more common toucanets include the Emerald, and previously mentioned, Guyana.
photo source - Emerald Toucanet
Is a Toucan a Good Pet for Me?
Not everyone is cut out to be the owner of a toucan, or toucanet.
These are social birds, if you are not home a lot the birds will suffer, particularly if you only have a single pet. They do much better in homes where people work out of their home, or work away from home only part time.
A person must be committed to feeding their bird correctly. Toucans and toucanets are prone to health problems related to iron, so must have the correct diet.
Toucans and toucanets can be kept legally as pets in most areas, but you should check laws in your area just to be sure. In most places it is illegal to release unwanted pets into the wild.
Where to Buy Pet Toucans
Although you can still find toucans, and toucanets in pet stores this is not a good place to buy them. Rather you should look for a breeder so you can be sure you are buying hand tame birds and not ones produced by a mass breeder, or captured form the wild.