Saffron toucanet (Pteroglossus bailloni)

Synonyms: Baillonius bailloni
GenusPteroglossus (1)
SizeLength: 35 – 39 cm (2)

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix III of CITES (3).

A spectacularly colourful member of the toucan family, the saffron toucanet can be readily identified by the adult male’s golden head and breast, olive mantle and red rump (2). Unlike some toucans, the bill of this species is of modest size (4), but has distinctive colouration, with red patches at the base surrounded by green or grey blue margins which fade to a yellowish-grey horn colour at the tip. The eye is yellow and surrounded by a patch of bare, red facial skin. Females are similar to the male but have more olive and less gold colouration and a shorter bill. The immature saffron toucanet has mostly olive and grey plumage, brown eyes, and a blotchy bill that lacks the serrated tooth like edges found in the adult. This species has an extensive repertoire of vocalisations, including loud teeee-up, yeep and yi notes, as well as purrs and rattle-like sounds (2).

The saffron toucanet occupies south-east Brazil, eastern-central Paraguay and north-east Argentina (2) (5). It is most common in montane regions of Brazil, where it may be found at elevations of up to 1,550 metres (5).

The saffron toucanet occupies moist, subtropical forest, usually on mountain slopes at elevations between 400 and 600 metres, but also in lowland areas. It tolerates forest degradation and can therefore be found in secondary growth and forest remnants (5).

Despite its bold colouration, in its natural habitat the saffron toucanet is relatively inconspicuous, as it generally creeps around the tree-tops in pairs or small groups searching for fruits such as figs and palm fruits. One observation of this species suggests that it may also eat young birds, as an adult was observed to throw a female woodpecker from its nest, and then clamber inside where it remained for over three hours (2).

The saffron toucanet breeds during June and July in the far north of its range, and December to April in all other regions. Courtship involves the male singing and feeding the female, as well as mutual preening. Once formed, breeding pairs construct a nest by excavating out an old woodpecker hole. The female lays a clutch of two or three eggs, which are incubated by both parent birds for around 16 days. The saffron toucanet has been known to live for over 13 years in captivity (2).

As a result of trapping for the illegal cage-bird trade, hunting and habitat loss, the saffron toucanet is currently suffering a moderately rapid population decline. While the montane forests favoured by this species have suffered less destruction than lowland forest, areas in the north of the saffron toucanet’s range have been substantially reduced due to the expansion of agriculture and pastoral farming, as well as fires spreading from these cultivated areas (2) (5).

The saffron toucanet is listed on Appendix II of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species, which means that all international trade is regulated through the use of trade permits and annual quotas. In addition, this species occurs in several protected areas such as Itatiaia National Park in Brazil; Reserva Natural del Bosque Mbaracayú in Paraguay; and Iguazú National Park in Argentina. Nevertheless, with the illegal cage-bird trade continuing to threaten this species, stronger enforcement of hunting laws is required to protect this remarkable species (2) (5).

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  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2014)