How Toco Toucans Protect Their Eyes

Toco toucans have some of the most beautiful eyes you will ever see. Very expressive and soulful, they connect with you immediately through strong eye contact. What makes them appear so colorful are the two layers of bare, unfeathered skin that surround their actual eye – the first bright blue and around that, tangerine orange.

From what I can tell in my experience with our birds, they appear to have two layers of protection for their eyes. First, they have an opaque, thin membrane which they can flick over their eyeball and for further protection, they fully close their eyes. I’m not sure what the primary purpose of the membrane is and what type of protection it actually provides in comparison to fully closing their eyes. Our toucans tend to flutter their eyes between closed and partially closed with the membrane visible, depending on what type of activity they are engaged in.

Paco, Paz, & Pepe will all close their eyes whenever they touch something with their mouth that is rough in texture. I find this interesting to see whenever we play in the Bag of Wonder. You can see in the picture above how even though the hair roller is not large enough to meet Pepe’s eye, he still closes his eyes due to the scratchy feeling of the Velcro.

Check out this video of Paco to watch how they flutter their eyes closed for protection when playing:


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