Why do toucans have such huge beaks? This is probably not a question to keep you awake at night, but it did flit through my head, as I painted this group of stunning birds. And did you know that a group of toucans is called a durante? I had no idea why, until it was pointed out to me that Jimmy Durante was probably the inspiration. With his rather prominent nose he was a rather popular entertainer of the 1920s through the 1970s. What a compliment to have the collective noun of these amazing birds named after you!
When I visit a bird park, I head for the toucans first. They are simply beautiful and fascinating. I wanted to celebrate the colour and pattern of their beaks in this painting to make that the star of the show. My aim was to give this painting a clean simplicity and allow the repetitive pattern to lead your eye. They make me smile and wonder again at the brilliant diversity of our planet.
This is a 50x50cm specially prepared canvas painted with watercolour, then sealed with UV varnish to protect the surface. People often say that my paintings make them stop and smile. What a difference a smile makes to a day! A lift in your step and a boost to your energy…
Back to the beaks, are they attractive to potential mates or intimidating to predators? They certainly help in gathering fruit and they use the serrated edge to peel and eat their spoils. Toucans can regulate the blood flow to the bill, using it as a way to keep its body temperature under control so they tuck it under their wings when they sleep, so as not to cool off too much.
Toucans are friendly birds living in small flocks of three to 12. They are monogamous and have been spotted tossing fruit to each other as part of a kind of courtship ritual. Luckily they can tell the difference between male and females, even if we can’t. Both sexes look the same and are equally showy.
Toucans are vital to keeping rainforests alive. They eat an array of native fruits, passing the seeds through their droppings, which helps keep the plants growing and maintaining the forest’s diversity. Loss of habitat is one of the major threats to these fascinating birds.
You might also be interested in a mixed media piece of a toco toucan I have in the birds gallery.