The Truth About Toucans

The Truth About Toucans

I’ve been a big fan of toucans ever since I was introduced to Toucan Sam, the mascot for Fruit Loops cereal at a very impressionable young age.  (Hey – it was the 70’s! No one knew sugar cereals were bad for you.)  Apparently, I’m not the only fan of toucans.  These pretty birds are popular pets which make them a high-value target for animal traffickers.

Being a travel photo addict, I took lots of photos of toucans at the Parque das Aves in Brasil which houses a large collection of toucans rescued from traffickers.

toucans at Parque das Aves in Iguassu Brasil

The Trafficking of Toucans

I finally got to see some real toucans at the Parque das Aves in Foz do Iguassu in Brasil.  This park, located right outside the entrance to the national park of Iguassu, serves as a home for many birds that have been rescued from traffickers and poachers by the Brasilian police and environmental department.  Right behind running drugs and guns, animal trafficking is among the most profitable of criminal activities in Brasil generating almost a billion dollars a year. Wow! That’s a lot of animals!

toucans on a tree

Although I’m not a fan of zoos and aviaries because I always feel sorry for the animals kept in cages, this centre is different.  Many of the birds here have been deemed unfit to return to the wild by veterinarians due to the horrific treatment they have received at the hands of humans.  For example, their wings have been clipped or they were kept in such small cages they never learned to fly.

toucan in brasil

The Parque das Aves has the largest toucan collection in the world.  Toucans are popular pets and are one of the biggest targets of traffickers and poachers.  Through The Toucan Project, the park rehabilitates rescued toucans as well as studying their behaviour.  The scientists at the park try to let the birds have as close a life as possible to that they would have had in the wild.

toucan in brasil

The Truth About Toucans

Here are 9 cool facts about toucans.  Did you know:

  • Toucans are only found in the forests ranging from Mexico to Argentina.
  • There are 37 different types of toucan which range from the really large toucans to the smaller Aracaris and Toucanets.  The largest toucan is the Toco Toucan.
  • The huge beaks are used to forage for food in the dense foliage of their forest habitat.  Despite their size the beaks are really light-weight and sharp.  The beaks are made from the protein keratin, the same stuff as human hair and nails and rhino horns (another animal subject to human cruelty).  Toucans toss food from the tip of their beak into the air, catch it in the back of the beak and then swallow.

toucan in brasil

  • The length of a toucan’s beak can be greater than its body!  To help balance out all that beak, the toucan has a longish tail as well as two toes in the front and two toes in the back.
  • Toucans are not very good at flying. Mostly they hop from tree to tree.
  • Other than its use for eating, a male toucan’s beak is also used to attract females and show dominance.  Yes, size matters.  As part of their dating ritual, males and females toss food back and forth to each other with their beaks.  This ceremony reminds me of the drinking game, suck and blow, sometimes used by humans in their mating rituals.
  • They eat mostly fruit but sometimes also insects, eggs and baby birds.
  • The toucan’s beak also helps it vocalise.  And, they are loud birds.  To date none have gone around squawking “Follow my nose! It always knows!”.
  • Toucans lay between 2-4 eggs.  Both male and female toucans share parental duties.  Baby toucans aren’t born with their enormous beaks but instead develop them in the first few months of life.


This post is part of the #TheWeeklyPostcard and #WeekendWanderlust link-ups.


Travel Notes & Beyond
Family Fun with Icelandic Horses

Family Fun with Icelandic Horses

Welcome to the show notes for the fifth episode of the Just Go Places Podcast. Episode Five is about a our experience with Icelandic horses on our family trip to Iceland.

Icelandic horses


On our road trip through Iceland, we saw beautiful Icelandic horses everywhere. Not surprising when you consider there are 90,000 horses in a country with a human population of 350,000.  We understand the Icelandic love of their horses though because riding the Icelandic horse was one of the best things we did on our trip. (And, we did a lot of cool things!).

Family Fun with Icelandic Horses podcast on Just Go Places Blog

We stayed at Stadarhús Icelandic horse farm where he had a cabin to ourselves.  It was set in a gorgeous location surrounded by a stream and fields of horses.  The cabin could sleep 6 people.  It was fairly basic but clean and comfortable.  The WiFi was excellent.

We enjoyed our visit to Skeidvellir (also known as Icelandic Horseworld) which is an Icelandic horse farm near the town of Hella on the south coast of Iceland. We did a tour of the stables, met one of the foals and the kids got to ride as well.

We had our horse riding gear with us (although proper riding boots are all you really need).  We had done the great value stopover deal in Iceland on Icelandiar and were on our way to the USA for the summer. Our horse-crazy kids always go horseback riding during the summer and attend pony summer camp.

I think checking out the Icelandic horses and even taking one out for a ride is a great family activity in Iceland. Younger kids will probably just be lead by the reins but older children will really enjoy going out on a trail ride. It’s great way to see the country’s amazing scenery.

[vimeo 59565002 w=500 h=281]

Listen to Episode 3 Below:

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Icelandic Horses

Icelandic Horses

Icelandic Horses

icelandic horses

Dolphin Encounter in the Gulf of Aqaba

Dolphin Encounter in the Gulf of Aqaba

What started out as a simple snorkelling expedition off the coast of the Sinai Peninsula turned into the most amazing dolphin encounter.

We set off from Sharm el Sheik in a small inflatable boat bound for Tiran Island in the Gulf of Aqaba.  Tiran Island is known for having great snorkelling.

Remember we took the Royal Seascope Adventure in Sharm because because my son had an irrational fear of sharks in the area and my daughter just didn’t like snorkelling at all? Well, I was able to tempt my son with the thought of visiting a shipwreck. My daughter was a harder sell.  She was satisfied though when she was outfitted with full face snorkel mask (so any fish/fish poop wouldn’t brush her face – yes really that was the concern!).

As luck would have it though, on our way, we were surrounded by a pod of dolphins.  They jumped from the deep blue water for the sheer joy of it.  Some of them tried to race the boat underwater.  These dolphins were super fast!

Neither my kids nor I had ever seen dolphins in their natural habitat before.  We have, of course, seen them at aquariums or at places like the Florida theme parks.  This experience was completely different.  Their playful nature and intelligence was readily apparent as they formed groups to jump, to call to each other and to race.

Dolphins in the Gulf of Aqaba , Egypt

We opted to spend so much time watching the dolphins we did not have time to see the famous shipwreck of the Thistlegorm which was sunk by the Germans during World War II.

Dolphins Gulf of Aqaba Egypt

Did we regret our decision to skip out on a famous shipwreck?  Nope. Ok, well maybe just my son who has a ghoulish boy’s interest in disastrous events, natural phenomenon etc.  My daughter and I thought that even the fabulous snorkelling at Tiran Island was nothing compared to the exuberance of the dolphins.


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