Toucans are relative newcomers to the Monteverde area and people who have been here a long time didn’t always see them, as the toucans preferred lower altitudes. As the temperatures have increased they moved further up the mountain and now they are quite common in Bajo del Tigre. The trouble is that toucans like to eat eggs and some of the birds up here that are already threatened, like the three-wattled bellbird and the quetzal make their nests in tree hollows. They haven’t learned how to protect their eggs from toucans because they never used to have them around their nests. Toucans love quetzal and bellbird eggs.
In 2011, as part of the canopy campaign for the local school, some of us spent many hours on the bridge in the cloud forest reserve watching a pair of quetzals tending their nest. Two weeks later the tree hollow was torn open and the nest and the young were gone. No one saw what got the nest but it must have been pretty strong to tear open even a rotten tree. The last thing bellbirds and quetzals need is more tragedies like that.
What can we do?
One strategy that Friends of the Rainforest is actively involved in is supporting the Bellbird Biological Corridor project which is trying to create continuous habitat for birds such as the Quetzal along their migration routes.
Another approach is to improve their survival chances up here at their breeding sites. To do this, many local landholders, including reserves have provided nesting boxes. A number of species use these boxes including the resplendent quetzal.
These boxes help by providing more nesting sites, particularly in regenerating forests since suitable hollows are more common in more mature trees. The boxes are also designed for the birds to be able to nest but make it hard for a toucan bill to reach the nest. And they are strong, so it is difficult for a predator to tear them open and get at the eggs.