We recently came to the conclusion that we needed to provide the Three-Cans with nest logs. Originally, we weren’t sure if it was the best idea, as we were concerned that it would lead to undesirable hormonal nesting behaviors. But I have always felt guilty that they didn’t have anywhere to rest their feet, having no option but to hold a perch, even when sleeping. Once we began Paz & Pepe’s socialization, we knew that they would need a nest in the event that they would decide to mate. I was still curious as to whether or not to provide one for Paco as well, so I contacted Jerry Jennings, Toucan Breeder and Owner of Emerald Forest Bird Gardens, for his expert opinion. He said without a doubt that it was essential that they all be given a nest and that it was an important part of their environmental enrichment.
We made our nest logs with a hollowed out palm tree trunk, using the AZA’s Toucan Husbandry Manual as our guide. When I asked Jerry to verify these recommendations, he not only gave his stamp of approval, but also informed me that he was the one who provided them with the guidelines in the first place – I should have guessed!
Watch Paco woodpeckering in his newly introduced nest log:
When we first introduced the nest logs, we decided to place them on the ground initially, thinking that the toucans may be intimidated by their size and need some time to adjust before we mounted them up high, in a dominating position. I’m assuming they have never had one in their enclosures before, so we didn’t know what to expect in terms of a reaction. But this was definitely one of those situations that reminds you of how much wild spirit still courses through our exotic birds, so much different than other pets which have been domesticated for centuries. All three toucans immediately took to the nests, exploring them with enthusiasm, and went to work woodpeckering out the insides.
I have read that toucans modify the interiors of the nest logs, if fibrous enough, themselves. Paz and Pepe seemed to have the most zeal for this task, spending days remodeling the insides and carrying out beak-fulls of wood chips to clear out of the nest. While Paz was the obvious ringleader, they worked as a team and shared the responsibility quite equally. Paco spent some time knocking around inside his, but didn’t actually carry out much excavating. He seems satisfied with the current condition of his new abode.
Watch Paz in her early excavation efforts:
One learning that I would like to share for anyone who plans to provide a nest log for their toucans would be to leave a lot more of the interior to allow the birds to hollow out themselves, so long as your log is soft and fibrous enough where this would be possible. We cut out the recommended size cavities ourselves, but Paz and Pepe have gouged out much more – making us almost worried that they were going to go straight through to the bark! They have since concluded their excavation efforts, finally seeming satisfied with their set-up.
Once we saw that the birds weren’t afraid of the nest logs, we mounted them up high, in the more protected corners of their aviaries. We also made sure to leave some space in between the nest log’s top and the aviary roof. The husbandry manual noted that toucans spend some time perching on top of the log, a behavior we witnessed ourselves just moments after introducing the nests.
Watch Paz & Pepe sharing treats and their new nest log:
All three birds have shown quite a few interesting, new-to-us behaviors since the introduction of the nests. I always thought Toco toucans only made two noises – their purring sound and their croaking sound – but it turns out, once you provide them with a nest, they have a whole new repertoire of vocalizations I never knew about. It was quite difficult to actually catch these on video, so for that I am sorry, but I promise to keep trying. One of the most memorable noises is a low guttural growling sound, which they perform while standing on the door frame and bobbing their head slowly up and down inside – almost as though they are exorcising the demons.
Paz will take food over to the nest in her beak, especially in the mornings, and bob her head up and down inside of it, appearing as though she is trying to feed something. Pepe is always quite attentive whenever Paz is around their nest, hanging by and watching her. Paco is super cuddly with me in his nest, often racing in when I enter his aviary, ready to enjoy my pet and preen services. All three birds spend time just sitting in the nests, I’m assuming resting, although none of them have actually slept inside them at night yet, tending to prefer the high perches they have always slept on. I will be interested to see with time passing if they ever take to the nests for bedtime.
While our nest logs are certainly nothing fancy, the Three-Cans couldn’t be happier. It is so wonderful to watch them bounce in and out of their nests, purring away with delight. I feel good now knowing that they have a special place to relax, hide, and feel safe should they ever desire so.