Toucan vs Parrot: What Are The Differences?

Written by Colby Maxwell
Published: June 15, 2022
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Two of the most beautiful, if often confused, birds in the world are the toucan and parrot! These colorfully feathered creatures are quite amazing, although they are quite different. Today, we are going to be taking a look at them to fully understand what makes them unique. Let’s explore: Toucan vs Parrot; what makes them different?

Comparing a Toucan and a Parrot

Toucans are less colorful, have larger bills, and only live in the New World.
ToucanParrot
SizeWeight: 4.6 ounces to 1.5 lbs
Length: 11 inches to 29 inches
Weight: 0.4 ounces to 8.8 lbs
Length: 3.1 inches to 3.3 feet
AppearanceCrow-sized body, splashes of color, large colorful bill.Vibrant, colorful birds. More proportional than toucans. Short rounded, pointed beak.
BeakExtremely large, colorful bill. Used for thermoregulation and attracting a mate.Black beaks with a hooked point. Extremely strong and used for grabbing, eating, and more.
DistributionCentral and South AmericaMost tropical regions around the world.
NoiseLittle to no noise in captivity or in the wild.Extremely noisy.

The 5 main differences between a Toucan and a Parrot

The main differences between a toucan and a parrot are that they aren’t closely related, toucans have extremely large bills, and parrots are found globally while toucans are only found in South America.

Toucans and parrots are two famous birds that people all around the world love to see. Whether it’s in a zoo, a pet store, or on a box of cereal, these tropical birds are beautiful and fill a unique ecological role. The easiest way to identify the difference between these birds is through the bill. Toucans have extremely large bills, often up to half their entire body length. Parrots, however, have shorter, stouter beaks with a hooked end that is much sharper.

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Aside from the bill, toucans have stocky bodies without distinct necks. Parrots usually appear thinner and have a round head, as opposed to a small head dominated by a large bill like the toucan. Colorwise, both birds are extremely variable. The specific colorations of a bird mostly rely on the individual species, but both groups have extremely vibrant and colorful species.

Although both of these birds are tropical and live in close proximity to one another, they aren’t closely related. Toucans are members of the bird family Ramphastidae, while parrots are members of the Psittacidae family. There are five living genera (groups) of toucans, with a total of 40 different species between them. Parrots are a much larger group that can be organized into different superfamilies and subfamilies. Altogether, there are nearly 400 species of parrot.

Let’s take a closer look at these differences in some more detail below!

Toucan vs Parrot: Size

Toucan vs Parrot

Toucans and parrots have different sizes according to their species.

©iStock.com/tzooka

Comparing the difference in size between toucans and parrots is complicated by the fact that there are different species within each group, all with their own relative sizes. The smallest species of the toucan is the lettered aracari toucan. Lettered aracari toucans weigh 4.6 ounces and are usually less than a foot long. The largest species of the toucan is the toco toucan. Toco toucans weigh up to 1.5 lbs and usually measure 25 inches long.

Like toucans, parrots are a diverse group with lots of different sizes contained within. The smallest species of parrot is the buff-faced pygmy parrot. The buff-faced pygmy parrot weighs a minuscule 0.4 ounces and measures only 3.1 inches long. The largest species of parrot is the hyacinth macaw. Hyacinth macaws can weigh as much as 3.8 lbs and are usually over 3 feet in length.

Toucan vs Parrot: Appearance

Toucan vs Parrot

Parrots are often totally colorful.

©iStock.com/Uwe-Bergwitz

Toucans and parrots are both tropical birds with somewhat similar features in some ways, but they generally aren’t too hard to tell apart. Most toucans have a body the size of a crow and a large bill that is up to half the length of their body. They come in an incredibly wide variety of colors, although they aren’t generally a single, solid color that a parrot could be. Most toucans are gray, brown, black, and white and have pops of vibrant color on their bills, around their eyes, and in patterns on their bodies. Their body shape is regarded as crow-like.

Parrots are much more variable in size, although they generally have the same proportions no matter how big they are. They often have a body that appears longer than a toucan’s stouter body. Although both types of birds can be colorful, parrots have a greater variety of colors they can come in. Additionally, a parrot could be a single, vibrant color (like blue or red), whereas toucans are usually mottled and have splashes of color. Parrots’ beaks are strong and sharply curved down.

Toucan vs Parrot: Beak

Toucan vs Parrot

Toucan bills are extremely large and colorful.

©Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

One of the most distinguishing factors between a toucan and a parrot is their beaks (or bills). The bill of a toucan is incredibly long compared to their body. In some cases, like the toco toucan, it is almost comical to see the long, wide bill in comparison to their otherwise small bodies. Most toucan bills are brightly colored, helping to distinguish themselves among eligible mates. Although the toucan bill is large, it’s actually quite light. The inside of a toucan bill is filled with a foamy keratin material and acts as superior thermoregulation while also allowing them to grab fruits in hollows.

Parrots have extremely strong beaks that can crack nuts and pull things apart, although theirs are much smaller than toucans. Additionally, a parrot’s beak is almost always black, although they do come in a few more shades. Still, their beak colorations don’t compare to the vibrant bills of a toucan. A parrot’s beak is curved down and ends with a sharp point, similar to a bird of prey.

Toucan vs Parrot: Distribution

Toucan vs Parrot

Parrots live in most of the world’s tropics.

©iStock.com/Ondrej Prosicky

Toucans have a much smaller distribution than parrots. These birds can only be found in Central and South America, although they are kept as pets in some places around the world. They almost exclusively live in forests and rainforests throughout their tropical range.

Parrots are widely distributed birds that live in the tropics of almost every continent. They can be found in Asia, Australia, Africa, Central America, and South America.

Toucan vs Parrot: Noise

Toucan vs Parrot

Toucans are significantly more quiet than parrots.

©.supernova. / Creative Commons

One of the reasons that toucans are growing in popularity as pets is their relative silence when compared to a parrot. Toucans don’t make much noise, don’t screech, and don’t scream.

Parrots, on the other hand, are famous for their noise. Much to the ire of pet owners, parrots will screech, scream, and even talk for hours at a time, nonstop. Each bird reflects its unique behavior in captivity and in the wild.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/zanskar


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About the Author

Colby is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering outdoors, unique animal stories, and science news. Colby has been writing about science news and animals for five years and holds a bachelor's degree from SEU. A resident of NYC, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone about what birds he saw at his local birdfeeder.

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