Aulacorhynchus prasinusemerald toucanet

Geographic Range

Neotropical: Emerald Toucanets, Aulacorhynchus prasinus are found abundantly in Central and South America, mostly along the eastern coast. They are sparse in the eastern-central parts of Mexico and exist more densely in the southern mountainous parts down through Costa Rica and Panama into the northernmost part of Venezuela. (Campbell 1974, USGS 2001, Peterson 1973).


Their native habitats are in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama in the higher elevation cloud forests. They have recently expanded their range into lower elevation rain forest. Emerald Toucanets will make their home at elevations from 915 m up to 3050 m (3,000 feet - 10,000 feet). They migrate vertically from lower elevation to higher elevation. (Campbell 1974, Peterson 1973, USGS 2001).

  • Range elevation
    915 to 3050 m
    3001.97 to 10006.56 ft

Physical Description

The male and female are monomorphic (alike) in color, but dimorphic (different) in size. The smallest of the toucans, Emerald Toucanets are commonly 30 cm. to 33 cm. (11 3/4 inches - 13 inches). The male will weigh in at about 160 g. (5.7 ounces), and the female at about 149 g. (5.3 ounces). Adults have colorfull beaks, with a definite outline of white on both; the top one colored yellow, and the bottom one colored black or dark red depending on the subspecies. Their feather coloration, dominantly green with highlights of whites, grays, and reddish browns, makes them blend in with the colors of the trees in which they dwell. (Campbell 1974, Dunning 1993, Perrins 1996, Terres 1980).

  • Range mass
    149 to 160 g
    5.25 to 5.64 oz
  • Range length
    30 to 33 cm
    11.81 to 12.99 in


Mating season is typically March through July depending on the weather, as inclement weather will harm the eggs or the female during incubation. Like many species, they have a common mating practice--a sort of sparring--mostly harmless; they engage in “bill fencing” where injury does occur because of how aggressive this activity can get. This usually begins after the pair has worked at preparing a nest.

Three or four white eggs are typically found in a tree-hole nest located between 2 and 30 meters (7 feet - 90 feet) above ground. Each egg has an incubation period of about 16 days. Both parents participate in the incubation before hatching, and in the nesting and feeding after; but are never in the nest at the same time. The parents keep a clean nest for their altricial (not well developed) young. The chicks have no eyesight the first 16 days, and though their eyes may no longer be tightly closed at about 25 days, they remain cloudy until about 27 days. Their feathers are not at all apparent the first 20 days. At about 35 days, except for having only pink skin around their eyes and the absence of the white line on their mandibles, they appear to have full plumage--green, like the adult. They take flight as early as 40 days, at which time the feedings provided by the parents begin to decrease until such time as the young do not return to the nest at all; at about 43 days. (Campbell 1974, Skutch 1983).

Typically the Emerald Toucanet is considered to be a secondary cavity nester, appropriating previously excavated holes in trees from smaller species.This nest hole is then enlarged just enough for the adult Emerald Toucanet to get inside. The male seems to be the relief parent in nesting activities, giving the female short to extended breaks during the process of preparing the nest, cleaning the nest, and foraging and feeding the brood. While the brood is present only the female will stay throughout the night. The male relief comes throughout the day. (Campbell 1974, Skutch 1983, Toucans 1999).
  • Range eggs per season
    3 to 4
  • Average time to hatching
    16 days
  • Average fledging age
    43 days

Both parents participate in the incubation before hatching, and in the nesting and feeding after; but are never in the nest at the same time. The parents keep a clean nest for their altricial (not well developed) young.


  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    10 (low) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    11.00 years
  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    12 to 14 years


Emerald Toucanets search for food in pairs or small flocks of up to about eight birds. They are very active birds covering large amounts of territory on a daily basis. They roost in trees, perched on branches. A nest is used only for incubation and raising the brood. (Skutch 1983, Terres 1980, Toucans 1999).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Emerald Toucanets are omnivorous, eating lizards and the eggs or nestlings of other birds when possible, though insects and fruits are the largest part of their diet. (Terres 1980).


A Bat Falcon--once observed by a boy who helped Alexander Skutch find nests at Montana Azul--was the only predator of adult Emerald Toucanets, cited within. It is presumed snakes and other arboreal animals are also a threat, primarily to eggs or unfledged offspring. (Skutch 1983).

Ecosystem Roles

Emerald Toucanets have been identified as a seed disperser for several rainforest trees. Studies indicate that the germination rate of seeds of these trees is higher following the seeds passing through the digestive tract of the bird. (Wenny 2000).

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Conservation Status

Emerald Toucanets were not found in any of these endangered species databases. However, the importance being placed on the coffee market may someday have a negative effect of survival for this species. (Henriquez 1999).


Debra Pellouso (author), Fresno City College, Carl Johansson (editor), Fresno City College.



uses sound to communicate


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


uses sight to communicate


Campbell, B. 1974. The Dictionary of BIRDS in color. New York: Exeter Books.

Dunning, J. 1993. CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, Inc..

Henriquez, A. June 1999. "Celaque National Park, Honduras" (On-line). Accessed October 14, 2001 at

Perrins, C. 1996. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of BIRDS. New York: Barnes & Noble.

Peterson, R., E. Chalif. October 1973. A Field Guide to Mexican Birds. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Riverbanks Zoo, 1999. "Toucans at Riverbanks Zoo / Breeding" (On-line). Accessed October 14, 2001 at

Skutch, A. 1983. Birds of Tropical America. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Terres, J. 1980. The Audubon Society ENCYCLOPEDIA OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

USGS, "Emerald Toucanet Habitat Map" (On-line). Accessed October 5, 2001 at

Wenny, D. May 2000. Seed dispersal, seed predation, and seedling recruitment of a newtropical montane tree. Ecological Monographs / Ecological Society of America, 70 (2): 331-351.