by Mina Arnold Young
You could nickname him "Big Bill." If you saw one you might think that it was mostly bill. Sometimes the bill is as big as the body, but it isn't very heavy. It is mostly filled with air. Such a long bill is handy when the bird wants fruit that grows out at the end of a small twig. He can reach it from a branch that is strong enough to hold him up.
Toucans live in the tropics, from Mexico to Argentina. They are mostly black, with patches of white, red and yellow. Their bills can be any color of the rainbow except violet! One kind is called the rainbow-billed toucan.
Toucans eat fruit, grain, insects such as flying termites, spiders and small lizards. They have long fuzzy tongues and some have notches at the edges of their bills. That would make it harder for a lizard to get away. They throw their heads back and swallow their food whole.
Toucans are sociable birds. They live together in flocks of about a dozen. It is hard to believe that sometimes they roost together in small places like old woodpecker holes. You would think a bird with a long tail and such a big bill would take up a lot of room. But they have a way of "folding up" for the night. They twist their heads around so their bills are lying on their backs. Their tails are hinged so they can fold them over their backs too.
Six toucans were observed making their home in one hole. When eggs were laid only one of the six slept there. But after the chicks had hatched the others moved back in and all helped to feed the chicks.
Rainbow billed toucans have been seen nesting in holes only 3 1/2 inches in diameter, just large enough for them to squeeze into.
God must have had fun making birds. He made so many kinds.
Eggs laid in sheltered nests are quite round, but eggs laid where they may be blown about by the wind or may roll for some other reason are pointed at one end. If they roll, they will roll in a circle. Birds have no way to control the color or shape of their eggs. God does it.
Some birds are called determinate layers. They lay a certain number of eggs each season. Others are indeterminate layers. They lay until there are a certain number of eggs in the nest. If the eggs are taken out the bird will keep on laying. One flicker woodpecker laid 70 eggs in one season!
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