- Rostrum capite longius, maximum, crassum, inane, cultratum, basali margine incrassatum; maxillæ angulo frontali subtruncato transverso: Nares verticales, pone maxillæ basin sitæ; tomia serrata; lingua angusta, pennacea; cauda brevis, æqualis; pedes scansorii. Illiger. Prod, p. 212.
Typus Genericus R. erythrorynchus Lath.
- Bill very large, longer than the head, thick, light, curved, and thickened at the basal margin; the frontal angle transversely sub-truncated, margins serrated. Nostrils vertical, behind the base of the bill. Tongue slender, long, and feathered. Tail short, even. Feet scansorial.
Generic Type Red-billed Toucan Lath.
- R. niger; gulâ flavâ; fasciâ pectorale tegminibusque inferioribus rubris; rostro viridi, apice rubro; mandibulâ superiore culmine carinato flavo, lateribus maculâ aurantiâ; inferiore cæruleo variegata.
- Black; throat yellow; pectoral bar and under tail covers red; bill green, tip red; upper mandible carinated and yellow above, the sides with an orange spot; lower mandible varied with blue.
- Yellow-breasted Toucan. Edwards, pl. 329.
- Ramphastos Tucanus. Yellow-breasted Toucan. Gen. Zool. 8, 362, (excluding the Synonyms.)
No tribe of Birds appear so void of that symmetry of form that in general pervades the feathered creation, as the Toucans and Aracaris in the new, and the Hornbills in the old continent. A question naturally arises, why the bills of these birds should be so monstrously out of proportion, and what possible use they can be applied to. The elucidation of these questions is highly interesting, and calls for the most accurate observations to be made in their native regions. It will be sufficient for the present, however, to point out, with regard to the Linnæan Toucans, that the accurate observations and anatomical knowledge of my valued friend Dr. Traill, F.R.S.E., of Liverpool, have clearly proved that an immense number of nerves and fibres fill the cavity of these bills, all connected with the organs of smelling, which are in the highest state of development. A short notice on this subject will be found in the Linnæan Transactions; but as my learned friend is pursuing his inquiries further on the subject, I shall for the present confine my remarks to the individual here illustrated, observing that no birds are so little understood, even in regard to the species, as these.
The indefatigable Edwards appears the first who noticed this bird. His description, though in the quaint style of the day, is clear and comprehensive; and his figure strengthens it, both being made from the living bird. Yet Dr. Latham has quite overlooked it as a variety of another species; and Dr. Shaw, although he copies Edwards's account, gives references which belong to other birds. It is not in the costly work of Le Vaillant, and indeed seems (from its excessive rarity) to have escaped the notice of all modern ornithologists. The perfect bill of the bird is, however, in my possession, minutely agreeing with Edwards's account; and also an original sketch in oil of another individual, by an unknown artist, with a note stating it was done from the life at Exeter 'Change. All these testimonies put the existence of the bird beyond any doubt.
Having seen only the bill, which is well described by Edwards, I shall close this article with such part of his description as appears necessary.
"The bill is very large, compressed sideways, having a sharp ridge along the upper part; the upper mandible is green, with a long triangular spot of yellow colour on each side, and the ridge on the upper part yellow; the lower mandible is blue, with a shade of green in the middle, the point is red, it hath about five faint dusky bars, which cross the joinings of the two mandibles. The iris of the eye is a fair green colour; round the eye is a broad space of naked skin of a violet colour: the throat and breast are of a bright yellow, below which is a bar of scarlet feathers; the covert feathers of the tail are white above, beneath of a bright red; the legs and feet are all of a blue or violet colour." Edwards says it was brought from Jamaica, but doubts its being rather a native of the continent: he says they are very rarely brought home alive.
The bill is full six inches long, and the whole figure on the same scale, both in this and in Edwards.