Back in the eighteenth century, the first European naturalists to see toucan specimens (animals collected for study) concluded these birds must catch fish with their massive, serrated bills. In fact, forest fruits make up 95 percent of the toucan diet. Common foods include guavas, figs, red pepper fruits, and palm fruits. To eat, a toucan holds a fruit in the tip of its beak, then tosses its head backward so the fruit falls down its throat. After digesting the pulp, the toucan regurgitates (re-GER-jih-tates; throws up) the hard pits and seeds. In this way, forest seeds are spread to new places.
Along with fruit, toucans also catch and eat small animals including songbirds, crickets, cicadas (suh-KAY-duhz), spiders, termites, lizards, toads, frogs, and snakes. They raid eggs and nestlings from other birds' nests. Some species catch bats as they sleep in daytime roosts. Some follow columns of army ants to eat the insects stirred up by the ant swarms.
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