(Brian Mcneill; 10 March 2017)
While Toucans’ diets consist primarily of fruit, new research co-authored by a Virginia Commonwealth University biology major suggests the bird species’ dining habits are actually more opportunistic than previously believed and include the eggs of ground-nesting birds.
Maria Vera, a student in the Department of Biology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, was part of a small team of undergraduate students and researchers who traveled to Costa Rica last summer for a nine-week National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates program to conduct a nest predator study.
As part of the study, the team built artificial bird nests on the forest ground and monitored the fake nests with camera traps. The cameras picked up two species of toucan descending to the ground to consume the eggs, marking what the team believes may be the first report of the bird preying upon nests on the forest floor.
The findings suggest toucans may be more opportunistic eaters, particularly in disturbed or fragmented habitats where fruit trees are scarce.
The team’s study, “Toucans descend to the forest floor to consume the eggs of ground-nesting birds,” is published in the March edition of the journal Food Webs.