These Toco Toucans were supposedly wild caught and when the two sets of them came in (two breeding pairs) no one could get near them, they were so afraid.
After working with both aggressive and scared parrots, I prefer scared birds over aggressive. I enjoy helping build a bird’s confidence and skills and watching it overcome its small fears and eventually, large fears. The goal for these wild toucans was to make it so that guests visiting the island could interact with them. Dave and I decided it would be really cool if people could walk inside their aviaries and feed them out of their hand with some fruit. We gave the toucans their normal pellet diet throughout the day, and just used blue berries and papaya (their favorite).
We started by tossing the food to them and letting them catch it, then eventually, feeding it straight from our hands…
With both pairs, one would be braver than the other and so some observational learning took place. Once the other (more timid) toucan saw that his pal was getting all the good stuff and filling up, the other toucan would get more brave.
By the end of 8 days, these wild toucans were feeding GENTLY out of our hands and allowed it from ANYONE! We had the local island trainer try first, her name was Cathy. The toucans did great with her, and so the next day we would put them to the test with the island’s first vistors… two girls by the name of Chloe who had never been around toucans before but were dying to feed them. I knew any slight sign of aggression from the toucans would scare the girls half to death so I counted on our in depth training to come through.
Now the guests didn’t want their pictures taken, but the toucans were as gentle as could be and pulled through. David was happy with the temperment of them enough that it was a job done and a new thing to offer guests on the island.
With two days left on our trip, Dave and I thought, cool, we have two days to ourselves to relax on the island! However, David had other ideas. “How about crate training them for when a hurricane comes?” he said. Dave and I looked at each other… “In two days?” we said, jaws dropped.