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A Toucan’s Bill Is Like an A/C Unit

Ever wondered, why does the toucan have a large bill? There is an answer to this!

Researchers have long wondered why a toucan’s bill is so massive. The riddle has recently been solved.

Why Are Toucan Bills So Long?

The toucan probably uses its large bill to adjust its body temperature. Thermal imaging cameras have shown that the bird reduces its body temperature by directing heat into its bill.

Charles Darwin thought that the toucan’s bill made it stand out when looking for mating partners. Later, people thought that the bill had a special role in opening fruit. It was also believed that it was used to defend nests or to scare off enemies because of its size.


Toco Toucan Toco Toucan - Photo: Oleksiy Mark/Shutterstock

The Toucan's Bill in the Thermal Imaging Camera

Scientists at Brock University in Canada and Estadual Paulista University in Brazil finally revealed the bill’s secret. They carried out tests in environmental temperatures between 50 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit (10 and 35 degrees Celsius). When the temperature was high, the thermal imaging camera clearly showed the bill in light red (so it was very warm). The bird was directing the heat to its bill. When it was colder, the heat remained in the toucan’s body and the camera showed the bill as blue.

How Does This Toucan Bill A/C Work?

Because birds don’t sweat, they need to regulate their body temperatures in other ways. The toucan uses its network of blood vessels - which also extends into its bill. The blood is cooled across the large surface area of the bill, and the body heat disperses into the air. The more the bird can circulate its blood through its bill, the more heat it can let go of. This could be up to 100% or just 5%. Elephants also use this trick with their ears.


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