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Name

  • Common Name (English): Groove-billed Toucanet
  • Scientific Name: Aulacorhynchus sulcatus

Etymology

Aulacorhynchus means tubular beak and is a compound word that comes from the Greek, aulax meaning groove and rhunkhos meaning beak. Sulcatus is a Latin adjective meaning furrowed, which, in this species, refers to the linear grooves in its beak.

Distribution and habitat

This bird is emblematic of the Cordillera de la Costa in Venezuela. Its habitat is between 600 and 2,400m above sea level. It is a relatively small toucan compared to others of its family (Ramphastidae).

This species can weigh up to 200 grams and measure about 35 cm in length. The toucanet is omnivorous and feeds on whatever it finds at hand, such as fruits, insects, small mammals, reptiles and also eggs and chicks, which it usually preys on. This is an animal that tends to be quite confident, due to its colouring, which perfectly mimics its natural environment, offering ideal camouflage. Toucanets usually travel alone, in pairs, or in small groups of up to 16 individuals that feed actively at medium altitudes and in the forest canopy.

There is a quite remarkable morphological variation between the Emerald Woodpecker that inhabits the Venezuelan Coastal Range, which has a blackish beak with red colouring, and the species which inhabits the Venezuelan Andes, which shows clear yellow colouring in its beak.

Its distribution ranges from Mexico, Central America, Colombia, northern Venezuela and along the Peruvian Andes to southern and central Bolivia. Invariably, these birds are with mountainous areas, such as rainforests, cloud forests, gallery forests and secondary forests or successions.

Biology and Conservation

It is estimated that its population is quite stable – far from being threatened, its status is of minor concern. This animal usually nests in natural holes in trees or in abandoned woodpecker nests, and its clutch usually consists of 3 or 4 eggs that are incubated by both the male and the female.

They usually produce several types of vocalisations, including recognised territorial, alarm and aggression calls. It has been determined that the flocks, when foraging in the forest canopy, usually follow a leader with whom they communicate through harsh, loud vocalisations.

Some bird lovers in Venezuela often say this is the emblematic species of the municipality Chacao in Caracas. I do not share this opinion, since at least at present, the Venezuelan Capital has been completely taken over by several species of macaws. These include Ara militaris, Ara severus and especially Ara arauna – a gigantic and docile specimen famous for its proximity to man.

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