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Yellow-eared Toucanet

Selenidera spectabilis

The Yellow-eared Toucanet, Selenidera spectabilis, is a striking bird belonging to the toucan family Ramphastidae. This species is the largest and most distinctively plumaged within its genus, measuring between 36 to 38 cm in length and weighing between 175 to 245 grams.

Identification Tips

Males and females of this species can be distinguished by their bill size, with females sporting a shorter bill. Both sexes share a similar bill pattern, featuring a vertical black line at the base. The maxilla is a vibrant yellow with an olive brown triangle below, tapering from the base, and horn-colored tips on the tomium. The mandible is a dark olive to brownish black. Adult males boast a black cap extending down the hindneck, blue to green bare skin around the eye, and a prominent yellow tuft behind the eye. Their plumage is green on the back and uppertail coverts, with a blackish tail. The underparts are black with a yellow patch on the flank, chestnut thighs, and red undertail coverts. Females, on the other hand, have a chestnut forehead and hindneck and lack the male's yellow ear tuft. Young birds are generally duller with less distinct bill patterns.

Habitat

The Yellow-eared Toucanet inhabits wet forested slopes and ridges, as well as nearby secondary forests and fruit trees near the forest edge.

Distribution

This species is found from northeastern Honduras through Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and western Colombia, extending into extreme northwestern Ecuador. It typically resides at elevations between 300 and 1,100 meters but can be found from sea level up to about 1,500 meters. In Honduras, it is not known to occur above 500 meters.

Behaviour

Post-breeding season, the Yellow-eared Toucanet is known to migrate from higher to lower elevations in Costa Rica and Panama. It is unclear if this movement is a widespread behavior or limited to younger individuals.

Song & calls

The song of the Yellow-eared Toucanet is a series of double notes, "tik-ett," which may be accompanied by bill snapping. Pairs can sometimes be heard singing in unison. Additionally, the species produces long and short rattles, which could be vocal or produced by the tongue inside the bill.

Breeding

The breeding season varies across its range, generally occurring from April to August, with earlier starts in Honduras and Colombia. Courtship involves singing, head tossing, and tail flipping. Clutch size is believed to be two to four eggs, but further details on breeding biology remain unknown.

Diet and Feeding

Typically foraging in pairs or small groups, the Yellow-eared Toucanet feeds from the mid-level of the forest to the canopy, occasionally descending to fruiting bushes near the ground. Its diet consists mainly of fruit, supplemented with arthropods and lizards.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the Yellow-eared Toucanet as Least Concern due to its large range and estimated population of over 50,000 mature individuals. Although the population is believed to be decreasing, no immediate threats have been identified. The species' abundance varies by region, being "uncommon to locally fairly common" in the northern part of its range, and "rare to uncommon and local" in Colombia and Ecuador.

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