Let’s talk about birds: the curl-crested aracari – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


This is one of a series presented by the National Aviary, which works to inspire respect for nature through an appreciation of birds.



The curl-crested Aracari is the only one out of 50 species in the toucan family that looks like it has a perm.  The top of its head is covered in highly modified, tightly curled shiny black feathers that give it a somewhat un-birdlike countenance. Both the male and female of the species have the same fancy feather-do.



Poorly known compared to most other toucan species, the curl-crested aracari inhabits moist lowland tropical forests in the southwestern Amazon Basin. Like other toucans, its long stout bill enables it to reach and feed on many kinds of clustered tree fruits, such as figs (Ficus species). Their long serrated bill is a very adept tool for this job. In fact, few other birds in the rainforest can harvest the annual crops of figs as efficiently as toucans can. Because of this, toucans such as the curl-crested are ecologically important for seed dispersal of Ficus and other fruiting trees in the rainforest.





Their appetite for fruit has led some toucans to be persecuted by farmers in Central and South America; they are also threatened by the illegal cage bird trade, and by poaching for meat and medicines.  But, the biggest problem for these birds is the same problem facing so many birds: habitat loss and destruction. One thing that contributes to loss of tropical forests is mining for bauxite, a mineral that is essential for the production of aluminum. At the National Aviary we always remind people, “one can saves toucans,” which is our way of saying that every aluminum can you recycle helps reduce demand for new aluminum, and that helps save habitat for toucans and all their rainforest neighbors, too.



At the National Aviary, we recently welcomed curl-crested aracaris into our flock, and their insatiable appetite for fruity handouts has made them very popular as our newest interactive feeding experience for visitors, offered daily at noon and 2:30 in the Helen M. Schmidt Flitezone Theater. So, why not come and meet these stylish toucans on your next visit to the National Aviary, but be sure to stop and visit the wattled curassow in our Wetlands exhibit, too, because it is feeling a little underappreciated now that there is another bird here with a fancy feather-do.

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