Finding Equality with Multiple Birds

When we first adopted the Three-Cans, all adult birds with varying degrees of trust issues due to their less-than-ideal past, I had my work cut out for me. I desperately wanted to have a positive, loving, pet-like relationship with all three of them and immediately created a plan to overcome their fears and break down their barriers through training and other bonding activities.

Spending time with the Cans

In the beginning, I was really concerned about keeping things “fair”. I had hoped to progress with each of them at a similar pace by making sure I gave them all equal amounts of focus and attention. I naively figured that because I was starting from scratch with each of them, things would move along in a neat little line and before I knew it, I would be snuggling up with all three of my docile, handle-able toucans.

In hindsight, I realize how much pressure I was putting on myself. However long I played with Paco dictated the amount of time I had to play with Paz and Pepe. If they didn’t engage with me for as long as Paco did (which very often, they did not), I would leave feeling guilty and like a failure. All I could focus my energy on was trying to come up with solutions to make things equal. I just need to find the right game for Paz  or  I need to find some way to hold Pepe’s interest longer  were thoughts that would occupy my mind. But what I was failing to see was that these were not problems that needed to be solved, but rather, varying personalities that needed to be acknowledged and accounted for.


It took me some time to realize that “fair” didn’t necessarily translate into everything being exactly equal for all three, but more that they were being given what they needed as individuals.

Paco is by far the neediest of the three and therefore demands the most of my time. He has chosen me as his “mate” and would gladly spend 24 hours a day by my side if he could. If I am present, Paco could literally care less about anyone or anything else. This means that whenever I am in his enclosure, he is interested and engaging in whatever I have going on, jumping on me like a jungle gym, and lovingly feeding me his treats and toys. Paco overcoming his fear of the indoors has been an important step in increasing his well-being as it allows him to spend even more time with me.

Me & my sidekick, Paco

Paz, on the other hand, desires the least amount of interaction from me or anyone else. My best guess is that no one really spent much time with her in her past life, probably due to and therefore increasing her very timid nature. She is learning to enjoy my company more and more with time, but so far, she still doesn’t like being handled and only wants to play for short bursts of time if I have something really interesting and she is kept in a steady stream of blueberry rewards. I have definitely seen progress in our past year together and know we will certainly get closer with time and consistent trust-building, but I do realize that she is more of a wild spirit than the two boys and may never really want or be capable of lowering her guard to become more of a “pet”. I accept and respect that.

Sharing a banana with my sweet girl, Paz

Pepe falls somewhere in the middle of the other two. His need for attention varies from day to day, depending on his moods. In most instances, he will hop down, eager to be near us, while other occasions, he seems perfectly content to stay up high and enjoy his own company. Pepe’s favorite game is catch and he will play focused sessions with enthusiasm, often multiple times per day in short increments, sometimes even as long as 15-20 minutes at a time. Pepe’s training continues to progress slowly, as it is very important to him that I respect his boundaries. I have learned the hard way several times by pushing him too-far, too-fast, and having to take several steps backward in our training to re-build the trust it took so long to establish. I have learned to follow Pepe’s lead in my interactions with him, giving him as much or as little space as he requires with the day.

Training time with Mr. Pepe

I still struggle with my dreams of creating the same relationship I have with Paco with Paz and Pepe, mostly because I feel it would increase their quality of life to be able to get out and explore more. However, at the same time, I realize that I may never experience the closeness with them as I do with Paco, but can appreciate our relationships for what they are and continue to work on expanding them at their pace. There is so much to celebrate in each of their unique personalities, especially now as I learn more about what they need and what makes each of them their happiest. Most importantly, I have been able to come to terms with my new definition of “fair” which allows me to release the guilt and instead, feel a sense of accomplishment in realizing that Paco, Paz, and Pepe are each getting exactly what they need in this moment.

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5 thoughts on “Finding Equality with Multiple Birds

  1. These guys are wonderful! I’ve been researching a bit about Toucans in general (mainly Toco toucans) but I’ve been wondering with toco Toucans do they need to be in a “flock” in captivity? Or is it possible to just own one Toucan? And is it healthier for their mental and physical health when they’re in a group or a pair?

    • Toco toucans are a non-flocking species and can be quite territorial. I really do not recommend them as pets. Please check out my “Toucans as Pets” page for more info. Thanks!

  2. If I remember correctly you rescued these three Toucans. When I get a toucan I would love to have a relationship with him/her like you have with Paco. Are toucans generally more like Paco if you get them from a breeder who is more affectionate in raising them?

    • Hi Tasha,

      Yes, we adopted the Three-Cans as adult birds. They were not in the best situation before and have varying degrees of trust issues as a result of it. They all three have very different, distinct personalities. Paco is an individual and his relationship with me has come through a lot of time and training. He is still very aggressive with most anyone else, which is typical for many species of birds to become loyal to solely one person.

      Adopting a bird as a baby guarantees nothing by way of personality. You can seek out general traits based on species, but like any animal, it will have its own personality that will not be altered based on who raises him/her. You can shape their behaviors and how they relate to the world based on how you raise them (a good upbringing will no doubt eliminate a lot of the unknown fears my birds have), but there are no guarantees you will get a bird with a specific type of personality. Paco is very dominant and confident in his personality, not because of his past, but because that’s just who he is as an individual. That is also what makes it very difficult for anyone to handle him, or even get near him. Paco is a very high-maintenance bird because of his personality. I adore him, don’t get me wrong, but I just want you to have the full story, not just the cute pictures.

      I have known others who have raised their toucans lovingly from babies, only to have issues with them down the line as they mature. In general, if you’re wanting a cuddly, affectionate toucan, I would say to look more into aracaris, rather than the large toucans, who are a handfull and more likely to become aggressive and stubborn and in general, do not like to be touched as much. I will be doing an article soon on large vs. small toucans, which may help give you a better idea.

      Hope that helps! I’m always here or at if you have more questions or wish to discuss further.

      Thanks for reading 🙂 ~ Chrissann

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