Yellow-throated Toucans

Along the Gamboa Trail in Las Cruces, we came across some yellow-throated toucans (Ramphastos ambiguus) displaying some peculiar behavior. One was hanging by its beak from another and a third was adjacent and calling. We watched with concern and took a video.

Eventually, the hanging individual was released with a loud snap—presumably the other bird’s beak snapping shut—and flew to a tree nearby, but was quickly pursued by the other two birds.

We assumed this was aggressive behavior, but, on the way back via taxi, the driver (who has lived in the area for his entire life… he even grew up in the garden at Las Cruces as his family worked there) suggested this was courtship—the female was hanging while the male held her. I couldn’t confirm this behavior anywhere (perhaps with a library) but beak knocking occurs during courting.