This species is the largest toucan and ranges from 55–65 cm in length, with a weight range of 500 to 876 g, the males being the heavier of the sexes. Other than the size difference, there is no external differences between the sexes. Its voice consists of a deep, coarse croaking, often repeated every few seconds. It also has a rattling call and will bill-clack. The bill is the largest relative to body size of all birds providing 30 to 50% of its body surface area. Charles Darwin suggested it was a sexual ornament: “toucans may owe the enormous size of their beaks to sexual selection, for the sake of displaying the diversified and vivid stripes of colour with which these organs are ornamented“. Further suggestions have included aid in peeling fruit, intimidating other birds when robbing their nests, social selection related to defense of territory, and as a visual warning. The bill has the ability to modify blood flow and so regulate heat distribution in the bird, allowing it to use its bill as a thermal radiator. In its capacity to remove body heat the bill is comparable to that of elephant ears.
The toco toucan eats fruit using its bill to pluck them from trees, but also insects, frogs, small reptiles, small birds and their eggs and nestlings. The long bill is useful for reaching things that otherwise would be out-of-reach. It is typically seen in pairs or small groups. In flight it alternates between a burst of rapid flaps with the relatively short, rounded wings, and gliding. Nesting is seasonal, but timing differs between regions. The nest is typically placed high in a tree and consists of a cavity, at least part of which is excavated by the parent birds themselves. It has also been recorded nesting in holes in earth-banks and terrestrial termite-nests. Their reproduction cycle is annual. The female usually lays two to four eggs a few days after mating. The eggs are incubated by both sexes and hatch after 17–18 days. These birds are very protective of themselves and their chicks.
Fortunately, the Toucan is doing fine in the wild and is listed of Least Concern by BirdLife International.