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Nutrition in Toucans and Hornbills


Joeke Nijboer

, PhD, Nijboer Consultancy

Last full review/revision Aug 2020 | Content last modified Sep 2020

In nature, toucans (Ramphastos spp) eat mostly fruit but also consume insects, rodents, and invertebrates. Like mynahs, toucans and hornbills are susceptible to iron storage disease. Their basic diet should be a low-iron pellet (<100 ppm) with a variety of fruits (apples, banana, grapes, blueberries) offered daily. If the bird picks the fruit preferentially over the large toucan pellets, the pellets can either be crushed, or very small low-iron pellets can be mixed with the fruit, so the pellets adhere to the fruit and are ingested. These long-beaked birds may have difficulty drinking water and may become dehydrated if not provided a large enough drinking pan. The amount of iron in the drinking water should be low. Care should also be taken to prevent iron-sensitive birds from absorbing iron through rust from the facility (eg, from the ground or cage). The iron content of pellets can vary considerably, so the iron content of every pellet batch should be analyzed before it is fed. To help prevent high iron intake, vitamin C should be <500 mg/kg, and the pellet should contain a considerable amount of tannins.

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