Yellow-throated Toucan Ramphastos ambiguus


Justification of Red List Category

Based on a model of deforestation in the Amazon basin, and habitat loss elsewhere within its extensive range, it is suspected that the population of this newly-lumped species is declining moderately rapidly over three generations, and it has therefore been classified as Near Threatened.

Population justification
The global population size has not been quantified, but this species is described as 'fairly common' (Stotz et al. 1996).

Trend justification
This species is suspected to lose 40.6-40.7% of suitable habitat within its range in the Amazon basin over three generations (35 years) from 2002, based on a model of Amazonian deforestation (Soares-Filho et al. 2006, Bird et al. 2011). Populations in Central America are suspected to be undergoing a slow to moderate decline, thus overall it is suspected that the species will experience a moderately rapid decline of 25-29% over three generations from 2002.

Distribution and population

Ramphastos ambiguus occurs as three subspecies in Central America and South America. Subspecies swainsonii occurs through Central America from south-east Honduras and Nicaragua. In Costa Rica, the taxon occurs in Corcovado National Park and Braulio Carrillo National Park. Its range extends through Panama and west Colombia, where it is limited in the east by the Cauca Valley having been extirpated from the Magdalena Valley. It continues west of the Andes as far as El Oro, south-west Ecuador (del Hoyo et al. 2002). Here it is apparently uncommon and has undergone a marked decline, although a sizeable population persists at Esmeraldas (del Hoyo et al. 2002, Restall et al. 2006). Subspecies abbrevianus occurs in north-east Colombia and northern Venezuela, possibly disjunctly (del Hoyo et al. 2002). It is scarce and local in the latter, with most records from Sierra de Perijá and the Andes (del Hoyo et al. 2002, Hilty 2003, Restall et al. 2006). The nominate subspecies ambiguus occurs east of the Andes from south-west Colombia through east Ecuador, where it is rare (del Hoyo et al. 2002, Restall et al. 2006). It is also uncommon in Peru, where its distribution reaches Junín (del Hoyo et al. 2002).


This species occurs in a range of habitats, including lowland forests, secondary habitats, clearings, swamps and plantations. It usually occurs above 1,000 m, dropping to 400 m in Venezuela. It tends to feed mainly on fruits, to the extent that it is a major disperser for some fruiting tree species: up 45% of a fruit crop can be taken in a single session. Palms, flowers, arthropods and small vertebrates also form a part of its diet. Breeding is between September and July in all areas, with the nest made in a cavity 5-15 m above the ground (del Hoyo et al. 2002).


Although this species is tolerant of habitat degradation, the projected rate of  deforestation in the Amazon basin is extensive enough to still constitute a primary threat (Soares-Filho et al. 2006, Bird et al. 2011, A. Lees in litt. 2011). It is also hunted in some areas (del Hoyo et al. 2002).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
None is known.

Conservation Actions Proposed

Expand the protected area network to effectively protect IBAs. Effectively resource and manage existing and new protected areas, utilising emerging opportunities to finance protected area management with the joint aims of reducing carbon emissions and maximising biodiversity conservation. Conservation on private lands, through expanding market pressures for sound land management and preventing forest clearance on lands unsuitable for agriculture, is also essential (Soares-Filho et al. 2006).


53-56 cm. Large, mainly black toucan. Feathers on the crown and upper back have maroon tips, undertail-coverts are red and uppertail-coverts creamy white, and the throat and breast are yellow with red below. Large bill, with a black line around the base and yellow on the culmen, broadening distally. Female has a shorter and blockier bill. Immature has less pronounced colour contrasts. Voice Repeated yelping phrases, the first note being longer than the rest.


Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Khwaja, N., Symes, A. & Taylor, J.

Lees, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Ramphastos ambiguus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/03/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/03/2023.