Prior to bringing our three toucans home, I was hesitant to pre-purchase any toys, as I did not know what would be appropriate for them. Having no experience with Toco toucans, I was very curious to find out how they play and what sparks their interest. While there is a plethora of information available online regarding the best toys for other large birds such as cockatoos and macaws, as with anything related to the rarer Toco toucans, the toy advice out there leaves much to be desired. I had read that ring toys were a no-no due to the birds’ desire to throw things in the air to play catch, thus potentially ending up around their beak or worse – neck. I also read that toucans love to swallow anything interesting and are especially attracted to shiny things, so you have to beware of small parts as well. But that was pretty much all I found. So as much as I wanted to be fully prepared for their arrival, I decided to just wait and meet them first before making any toy decisions.
Now that it’s been three months since we’ve had the toucans, I’m getting a much better idea of how they play and what they like to play with. We have received two large toy orders in the meantime and have had fun experimenting with what they like best. Surprisingly, Toco toucans amuse themselves much like a dog. One of their favorite ways to play is Tug-of-War with an object with the end goal to rip the thing apart. It is really hilarious to watch the amount of fight that can be found in so lovely a bird. They are also incredibly inquisitive and love to peer into cavities to try and find things to pull out. I have read that it is a natural behavior in the wild to clear out debris in hollowed out tree trunks for use as nests, so I’m venturing a guess that this is where this behavior comes from.
Watch Paz play with her new toy (the roof was destroyed by the end of the day!): httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgMZFV35VKw
Keeping Paco, Paz, & Pepe entertained is a seemingly never-ending occupation. As opposed to parrots, toucans are incredibly active birds, spending most of their days hopping around, playing, and investigating anything that comes their way (fallen leaf, tourist, etc.). Our three toucans seem to find a toy interesting for about a day or so, then grow bored of it and won’t touch it again if it remains in their cage. We generally put new toys in each morning and if they show enough interest, leave them in for another day but change their positioning within the cages. We try to get as much use of a toy as possible by rotating it between our three little monkeys, but you can still see the sheer volume of toys that are needed to provide proper enrichment for these intelligent, fun-loving birds.
What is also challenging is that they are not interested in the slightest in any of the ready-made parrot toys, such as those with lots of knots or other hanging elements. Due to the lack of leverage in their long toucan beaks, they cannot pick and shred at toys like parrots do, so these types of toys are essentially meaningless to them. Plus, you also have to watch out for dangerous pieces often hidden in parrot toys such as bells and nuts.
Watch Paco with his new birdhouse with toys inside: httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FT_DWKV9-SI
So far, I have ordered once from Petsmart and most recently, from Drs. Foster & Smith, but am always looking for other great suppliers for variety. Because I was limited in choices that were suitable to toucans in their selection of bird toys, I also ended up finding some good stuff in the cat and other small pet (hamster, ferret, etc.) sections. In choosing toys, I have a couple of stipulations:
- Toys must be made from as many natural materials as possible. We’re not big on plastic toys both for bird safety and, less importantly, appearance. (David thinks the plastic toys make the toucans look like they live in a trailer park 😉 )
- If toys are colored, they are only colored with all-natural vegetable dyes, nothing artificial or chemically-derived
- Toys and parts must be large enough to not be swallowed by the birds, whether accidentally or intentionally
In my current limited experience, my favorite toy brand is Planet Pleasures due to their commitment to provide environmentally-friendly toys free of plastic, chemicals, and glues. It’s nice to be able to find toys made with natural materials that are also colorful – the birds are really engaged by the bright palette.
Besides purchased toys, we spend a lot of our time putting our creative minds to work in constructing our own toucan toys with items we already have here on-island. Often enough, these tend to be their favorites. But, I’ll save that for a future post. Play hard for now and stay tuned…