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Guyana Toucanet

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Manjith Kainickara

Is the Guyana Toucanet right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Guianan Toucanet

Scientific name: Selenidera piperivora

The basics:
Formerly little known in captivity, the Guyana Toucanet is slowly becoming better appreciated thanks to the efforts of Jerry Jennings, who produced the first captive-bred babies in 1990. Like all toucans, it still represents challenges and shouldn't be a beginner's first bird, but it can be a wonderful choice for a well-heeled, dedicated pet owner or breeder willing to provide for its special needs.

The scientific name of the Guyana Toucanet was recently changed from Selenidera culik to Selenidera piperivora, so you will find a lot of information under the previous species name. Its exotic appearance suggests the South American rainforest, and indeed it is a native of lowland tropical rainforest in a small northeastern patch of that continent, including a bit of northwestern Brazil, Venezuela, Surinam, and the two Guyanas.

Appearance:
Guyana Toucanets have a wonderfully exotic appearance, with their black and chestnut bills, blue bare skin around the eyes, and yellow ear patches. The adults are easily sexed, since the male has a bold black chest, while the female's chest is a fluffy-looking gray. Her beak is shorter and stubbier than his, but she sports a chestnut nape that he lacks, so you would have a difficult time deciding which bird is more beautiful.

Weight:
140 grams (5 oz.)

Average size:
35 centimeters (14 in.)

Lifespan:
15 - 20 years

Behavior / temperament:
Guyana Toucanets that are hand-fed or handled by humans from a very early age become very highly regarded pets. They can play catch, whether with a soft toy or with an edible object like a grape. They quickly learn to fly to the hand for treats and attention. Their unusual appearance, combined with their great personality, makes them extremely endearing pets. However, prospective owners should be warned that this species is considered to have an unusually loud call for a smaller toucan. If you have near neighbors, you want to consider another species.

Housing:
An individual Guyana Aracari cannot be happy unless the bird is able to leap and to fly. They can't exercise by climbing. A single pet held indoors needs a very long cage – at least six feet long. You should also have a place where it's OK for your pet to hang out with you outside the cage. Because of the frugivore's soft feces, they are not good over a carpeted area. Place plastic over the carpet, or perhaps just replace the carpet with a nice quarry tile. Have an easily cleaned play area as well as an easily cleaned cage, because pet aracaris do want to be able to come out and play or snuggle with you.

Serious breeders will do best if they are willing to house them in their own spacious, well-planted, well-equipped walk-in tropical aviary. In the right climate, the aviary may offer some access to natural sunlight. It should also be secure against thieves, predators, rodents, and mosquitoes, and of course it should be maintained at warm, tropical temperatures that allow plenty of opportunities for the birds to bathe. You must provide the nesting log, since Guyana Toucanets use woodpecker cavities – their large bill is completely ineffective for digging out their own hole from scratch.

Diet:
Like the other toucans, Guyana Toucanets must be fed carefully to prevent the development of iron storage disease, which can cause sudden death. The backbone of the diet is fruit -- 70% papaya, 20% bananas, 5% grapes and 5% blueberries. The mix of fruit is not set in stone, and if papaya is not available, then cantaloupe can be used. Many other fruits can also be added to the mix. However, because citrus fruit may promote the storage of iron in the body, avoid oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, and other citrus. Pineapple and tomato also contain citric acid, so they should be avoided as well.

Softbill pellets should be a low iron variety developed specifically for toucans that has NO propylene glycol. Mazuri Low Iron Softbill Diet is a highly regarded pellet that fills these specifications. Insects and pinkie mice, which you will see recommended in older diets, should not be given except on advice of an expert breeder or avian vet. Fresh water should be available at all times, including a shallow pan for splashing and bathing.

Written by Elaine Radford

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