On January 29, 2022, the Pichincha Prefecture, the governing entity of the Pichincha Province of Ecuador, announced the results of their contest, the Most Emblematic Bird of Quito. We’re thrilled to share the results with you as this bird is also one of our favorites, the Choco Toucan!

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The Choco Toucan

The Choco Toucan (Ramphastos brevis) is a stately bird with a luxurious black body, bright lemon yellow face and throat bordered by a thin line of scarlet matching its crissum (feathers under the tail), a startling white patch at the top of its black tail, and dazzling lime green eye-rings surrounding its solid black eyes. Its beak is also striking, a bright yellow on top and a dark black on the bottom, divided on the diagonal from face to tip. This is a stunning bird to see in real life!

A Choco  Toucan, a large black and yellow bird with large beak

This bird is usually seen in pairs or, less often, in small flocks foraging native fruits found in the lower foothill cloud forests of the Andean West Slope.

The Choco Toucan is an agile bird, using its large beak to pick very fine berries or seeds, sometimes tossing them up and catching them again mid-air! It also is fun to watch, jumping from branch to branch often making a raucous noise. 

Choco Toucan, beak wide open

Similar Species

The Choco Toucan has a cousin with very similar markings. In fact, even to the trained eye, it can be difficult to tell them apart in a dimly lit forest. The Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan, also called the Yellow-throated Toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus) has a dark brown beak whereas the Choco Toucan’s is dark black and slightly smaller in length. The best way to tell them apart is to listen to their calls. 

The Choco Toucan has a rhythmic, high-pitched squawk or croak while the Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan calls with a chirping tone sometimes referred to as a yelp.

Where To See & Photograph the Choco Toucan

The Choco-Darien is home to the Choco Toucan. This region runs from southern Panama through the Chocó Department of Columbia, continues through the Choco-Andino Biosphere that includes Ecuador’s Pichincha Province, and runs all the way to the border with Peru.

The Choco-Darien is famous for its thick cloud forests full of endemic plants and a myriad of fauna like jaguars, ocelots, anteaters, tapirs, several species of monkeys, and hundreds of birds, not to mention an untold number of amphibians and insects. Unfortunately, deforestation from farming and mineral extraction are its biggest threats

Choco Andino Toucan, black bird with yellow face, white upper tail, and beak that is yellow on top with black lower beak.

Most avid birdwatchers visiting Ecuador fly into Quito and head to the Choco-Andino Biosphere to see this spectacular bird.

Popular spots to photograph this bird in Ecuador include Rio Silanche, San Jorge de Milpe, and the Mindo Cloud Forest Reserve in Milpe. The latter is where we have been fortunate to observe this expressive bird in action.

Congratulations, Pichincha Province!

In conclusion, we want to offer our heartfelt congratulations to the leadership team at the Pichincha Prefectura for hosting this contest. The result calls attention to a beautiful bird and to the rich biodiversity of the areas surrounding Quito.

Contests like these also serve to educate local residents, the very people who have the most say in protecting the wild spaces that remain. Hopefully, contests like these will also lead to the reforesting of areas bordering the Choco Andino biosphere helping regenerate the ancient forest for future generations.


Sunset near the Refugio de Paz, part of the Choco Andino Biosphere Reserve, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake