Frugivory by toucans (Ramphastidae) at two altitudes in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil
Biotropica, v. 32, n. 4 B, p. 842-850, 2001.
Pizo, Marco A.
Toucans are prominent components of the tropical American avifauna. Although these birds are very conspicuous, there are few ecological studies focusing on them. In this study, the diets of four sympatric toucans (Ramphastos vitellinus, R. dicolorus, Selenidera maculirostris, and Baillonius bailloni) were assessed by recording feeding bouts at two altitudes in the Atlantic Forest of southeast Brazil. Our results show that toucans are predominantly frugivorous birds (96.5% of the 289 feeding bouts were on fruits). In the lowlands (70 m elev.), only fruits (48 species, 27 families) were recorded, while in the highlands (700 m elev.), toucans were observed feeding on fruits (25 species, 22 families), flowers, leaves, and insects. Non-fruit items were recorded only in the highlands, most of them eaten by B. bailloni. Cecropia glaziovii and Euterpe edulis, two abundant plants in the highland and lowland sites, respectively, and Virola oleifera, a plant that produces lipid-rich arillate fruits, were eaten heavily by the toucans. The number of feeding bouts recorded for R. vitellinus in the lowlands was positively correlated with lipid content of the fruits eaten. The diameters of fruits eaten by toucans varied greatly (range = 0.4-25.0 mm). While the large Ramphastos species not only ate tiny fruits (e.g., Hyeronima alchorneoides) but also large ones (e.g., Virola gardneri), the toucanets ate piecemeal the large fruits that exceeded their gape width, suggesting that gape size did not limit the use of any fruit by the toucans at our study sites.