Hornbill vs Toucan | Are They Same! – Difference Between Them:

You will agree that the similarity is striking if you have seen both birds. And if you are seeing a hornbill and toucan for the first time, you will mistake them for other birds. 

Intro Video - Backtobirds
Intro Video - Backtobirds

Their large bill is why people believe that both birds are from the same species. But that’s wrong. That’s not true at all because they are altogether different. 

They don’t belong to the same family and are not related by any means.

So, read this guide if you find it difficult to identify hornbill and toucan.

What Is The Difference Between A Hornbill And A Toucan?

There are several differences between a hornbill and a toucan.

First is their family. Hornbills belong to the Bucerotidae family. They belong to the kingdom Animalia, class Aves, and order Bucerotiformes. 

Toucans belong to the family Ramphastidae. Their kingdom is also Animalia, class Aves, but order Piciformes.

The second difference lies in their habitat. Hornbills are mostly found in Africa and Asia. They live in subtropical areas. 

Toucans are natives of Central and South America. They live in neotropical areas.

The third difference is in their beak. It may look the same, and it may be the cause that the two birds are almost considered cousins, but their beaks are different.

The beak of a toucan is very lightweight and hollow. It is made of keratin. But the hornbill’s beak is different. 

It has a casque on the upper beak and strong neck muscles to support its heavy beak. Hornbills’ toucan beaks are the result of convergent evolution.

The fourth difference is the number of species. There are, in total, 100 species of both toucans and hornbills combined. 

There are so many birds that one or the other hornbill species also looks like a toucan species.   

Owning Hornbill Vs Toucan As Pet

These exotic birds look amazing, and it is of no surprise if you want to get one of them home. But is it good to take them home?

Hornbills are shy birds. They live in the wild and prefer it there. The same goes for Toucans, but toucans are getting more popular as pet birds presently. This is because they are playful, intelligent, and quite vocal.

To keep these exotic birds as pets, you should learn about them first. They need an aviary, a proper diet, and timely vaccination. 

If you raise them from a hatchling, they will be more accustomed to you and a house, but getting a grown-up bird will pose some challenges. 

Also, their vet care is not so easily available because they are exotic birds and are not ordinarily treated in hospitals. So, vet care might be a little difficult. 

The third is breeding. Toucans are easier to breed, but hornbills are not. They find a cavity in a tree, and the female lives there for four months without coming out. 

Only her beak can come out of the packed hole which the male hornbill secures from outside. This process is not possible while breeding them at home.  

What Do They Eat?

Hornbills are omnivore birds. They feed on insects, small animals, mammals, and fruits. Their tongue is quite small, so they catch a fruit or animal and then jerk their head, open their mouth, and take the food in. 

Their different species eat different things. Those living in forests where fruits are easily available feed on fruits. Those who live in open wild areas prefer other animals.

Toucans are frugivores birds. Their main diet is fruit. They keep hopping on trees and searching for fruits. They also eat insects and small reptiles like lizards, but they can survive without them.   


The breeding system of both birds is also altogether different. 

Toucans start finding cavities in trees before laying their eggs. They make a small nest with a few twigs and tree leaves. Their nest is also filled with fruit pits and seeds to make nice bedding. The female lays 1-4 white shiny eggs. 

The incubation period lasts for 16-20 days. The male and female hatch the eggs for not more than one hour at a time. After 16-0 days, the featherless juvenile toucans come out. They take 45 days to leave their nest.

The breeding process of hornbills is quite different. The process starts with finding a suitable cavity or hole. 

They can also use abandoned houses of woodpeckers. Then both the male and female start making a door to the cavity. They start sealing it from all sides with mud, dung, fruit pulp, droppings, etc. 

Once the hole is sealed enough, i.e., it only has a small door for the female to pass, the female enters it. The rest of the door is packed with the male. There is only enough room for the female to poke its beak out so the male can feed her. 

After four or five days, the female lays eggs. It lays 2-6 eggs. These eggs are also white. During the incubation, the male feeds the female. 

When the hatchlings are grown enough, the door of the nest is broken some more, so the babies and females are comfortable, and the male can feed them too.  

Who Is Smarter- Hornbill Vs Toucan?

Hornbills may be known for their intelligent breeding ritual, but when it comes to smartness, toucans are among the smartest birds on the planet, along with parrots, finches, and cockatoos.   

Adaptations, Survival, and Climatic Conditions 

Adaptations- Hornbill

Hornbills are known for their beak and the casque above them. It is unknown why this casque is important, but it makes the bird distinctly identifiable.

Also, their breeding ritual is most talked about. It is believed that it is an age-old trait to keep predators away.

The neck vertebrae of the hornbill are fused. It is believed to support their large beak.

Hornbills don’t drink water. Instead, they hydrate themselves through the diet they take.

The colors of the hornbills are their most striking feature. They are found in different colors and are the most beautiful ones.

Adaptations- Toucan

Toucans and hornbills have evolved convergently. Their beaks are proof, but both birds use their beak for different purposes.

Toucans have developed a large beak to reach fruits, but they are also blessed with a large tongue. So, they can perch on the thinnest branches and reach even the distant fruits.

Their beak is very lightweight and allows them to perch on top branches without worry.

They use their large beak to regulate their body temperatures as it forms one-third length of their body. They tuck their beak under their wings and sleep with their head resting on their back to keep themselves warm.

They are not great flyers; thus, they have adapted to live in a canopied area, i.e., tall, bushy trees.  

Survival- Hornbills

Hornbills live in both forests and open lands. The female lays around 2-6 eggs. Out of these, only one survives. 

They are majorly hunted by owls, eagles, hawks, and even humans. Their hunting is a major concern today.

Survival- Toucans

Toucans are known for their shrill, screechy voice. They use it to warn other birds against predators. Their major hunters are eagles and hawks. 

Also, they are not great at flying, so they have adapted themselves to hide well beneath the tree canopies. They also use their large bill to ward off predators. 

Toucans have 4-toe feet. Two facing forward and two facing backward. It allows them to grip the higher branches and climb at a speed when under attack. 

Climatic Conditions- Hornbills

Hornbills like a tropical climate, full of trees and large canopies. They also prefer African Savannas and the Himalayas.

Tropical rainforests with warm conditions are best for them. However, the increasing heat around the globe is a concern for hornbills.

Climatic Conditions-Toucans

Toucans love a warm rainforest with lots of rainfall. They like thick canopied trees where lots of fruits are available to them. 

They don’t even migrate, so they are quite safe in their native Neotropic areas. 

Is Zazu A Hornbill Or A Toucan?

Zazu has been quite a famous bird since its debut in the animated movie “The Lion King”.

Many people questioned whether Zazu was a hornbill or a toucan. But look at the bird carefully. It has a small casque on its beak, and experts say it is a red-billed hornbill. 


Hornbills and toucans are not related, not even remotely. They are two birds living in two different areas, with distinct habits and dietary needs. 

The only similarity between them is a large beak. But it also differs in its structure. 

So, next time you see a hornbill or a toucan, look closely, and you will see the clear differences.