I had one of these birds as a pet in the mid-1960s and while now I know it was a travesty…back then it just seemed fun.

My poor old Toucan named “Toucky” was a nervous asthmatic.  When he got upset he’d wheeze and gasp and shriek.  He’d even fall on occasion to the floor of his cage.  Because, while large, his cage wasn’t really large enough; his tail feathers never grew very long which just like clipping his wings caused him not to be able to fly much.  I could take him out and hold him on my arm without fear of his flying away.  He made great long hops to keep up with me when I’d take him outside and put him on the ground.  I’d be weeding the rose bed in front of the house and when I would move out of his sight he’d squawk, jump up and look around frantically until he saw me.  Then he’d hop on down to where I was so he could futz around on the ground beside me.  He really acted just like the “Fruit Loop” toucan of the advertisements on TV and ate just like this video.

My mother let me buy him from an exotic pet store in Las Vegas with my allowance because my pet neutered white rabbit had finally met his match in a German Shepherd that jumped our 8 foot cinder block fence and got a hold of him in the back yard.  I was devastated from the loss so my mother had taken me to the store just for a look around.  I believe her idea was to let me walk around like at a petting zoo but I had a fistful of cash stashed from my allowance and when it came down to between a sloth….I’d always loved watching them in Panama as an even younger child…or the Toucan; she chose the latter.  That was how Toucky came to be ensconced in my bedroom along with “Cocky” my cockatiel.  (I heard that, no I wasn’t very creative with names back then.  My rabbit’s name was “Twitch”)

Toucky wan’t nice to Cocky so I couldn’t let them out together in my room.  When Cocky was out, if he landed on the top of Toucky’s cage, Toucky would whip that large beak right up and try to eat Cocky.  He pulled many a tummy feather out of Cocky who I think he thought was a big moth.

I’d give Toucky a bath in the bathtub about once a week as he ate a lot of fruit and was very messy.  He’d have one of his fits every time I held him in the water up to his head but he would splash around in standing water a little.  It just didn’t get the fruit junk off very well.  He seemed to enjoy the petting/drying with a towel and he loved for the top curve of his beak to be rubbed.  It would mesmerize him so that I had to stop before he’d fall asleep and open his claws and fall off his perch.

I kept him as a secret pet from my father for weeks maybe even months.  My mother and “us kids” always operated on the premise that whatever “Daddy” didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.  My room was up on the 2nd floor and almost sound proof, my father was oblivious to what was not in front of his eyes and often to what actually was, so this went on for some time.

Then one very early morning, about 1 am, Toucky threw a fit in my room and my father came running up the stairs to protect his first born from who knew what…brave man charging into the unknown…only to be met by me yelling at him to stop scaring my bird. It was like something out of James Thurber.

Toucky was then moved to the front entryway, where he’d eat fresh fruit particularly strawberries his favorite, by throwing them up into the air, catching them in his beak and then gulping them down.  This would cause strawberry juice to splatter all over the white flocked wall paper in the entry and leave unimaginable stains.  However being in front of every one made Toucky happy because he really did like people and mild commotion.  It also made me clean his cage more often as the family got on my case all the time.  “Want it – Got to clean it” was the family motto.  One that wasn’t followed well by any of “us kids”.


Last three images source: Wikipedia