Ivory-billed Aracari

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Is the Ivory-billed Aracari right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Azara Aracari; Azara Toucan; Brown-mandibled Aracari (P. a. mariae)

Scientific name: Pteroglossus azara

The basics:
The small but colorful Ivory-billed Aracari is a spectacular and personable little South American toucan species which must be recommended to the experts because of its rarity in aviculture. There are two subspecies of this well-named bird with the striking bill that does look like ivory shining in the sunlight.

These dramatically colored aracaris are found in rainforests and other forested areas of somewhat northwesterly South America to as far south as portions of Bolivia.

Males have a dark, nearly blackish cap, while females have a deep chestnut-cap that could look black at a distance. The upper body and wings are dark, the rump and breast stripe are crimson, the vent is yellow, and there is a very wide black belt between the red breast belt and yellow vent, with a hint of a red line between black and yellow.

150 grams (5.3 oz.)

Average size:
38 centimeters (14 in.)

15 - 20 years

Behavior / temperament:
The small, cheerful Ivory-billed Aracari has a great reputation for being a naturally confiding bird, but their personality really blooms if they are hand-fed or handled by humans from a very early age. They snuggle, purring with happiness. 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. Their croak is not considered very loud, allowing them to be good apartment pets, assuming the apartment is large enough to allow for their generous housing needs. Considering the beauty and personality of these birds, it is to be hoped that breeders continue to work to develop a population large enough to supply the demand.

An individual Ivory-billed 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.

Because of its rarity in aviculture, most people seeking out this species should be serious breeders 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 places for the birds to bathe. You must provide the nesting log, since Black-necked Aracaris use woodpecker cavities – their large bill is completely ineffective for digging out their own hole from scratch. Network with other breeders working with this species, perhaps through the American Association of Aviculture, in order to get the most up-to-date information on how to succeed with these beautiful birds.

Like the other toucans, Ivory-billed Aracaris 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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