Three-wattled Bellbird

Birds of Costa Rica

Fiery-billed Aracari (Pteroglossus frantzii)

Family:  Ramphastidae

Size male, approx:

 43 cm /  17 in


250 g

Physical appearance:

Much more colourful than Collared Aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus), typically in groups of five. Head, neck and upper chest black, chestnut nuchal collar; dusky black facial skin, elongating and shading into red behind the eye; bright yellow iris. Large bill, base narrowly bordered by creamy-white, upper mandible mostly bright red-orange, fades into yellow and yellowish-green and lastly maroon near base, this last colour extends just above tomiun contrasting with the pale serrations; broad stripe of black extends from nostrils into most of culmen; lower mandible entirely black. Back, wings and long tail greenish-black (in good angled afternoon or morning light green becomes more obvious and beautifully complements the shades of red), rump and upper-tail coverts red. Underparts mostly bright yellow, suffused with red, large black spot on breast; red broad breast band across middle belly, narrowly bordered with black above; chestnut thighs; greyish-olive legs.

Juvenile differences:

Much duller overall, dusky black on back, much paler yellow underparts, breast spot much smaller and inconspicuous, and the breast band fairly washed with black and rufous. Basal portion of beak lacks the creamy-white border, dimmed orange iris.

Similar species / differences:

Collared Aracari ( Pteroglossus torquatus ) is similar, but no range overlap. Not as colorful, beak mostly creamy-yellow above and black below; breast spot much smaller, and a narrower black belly band (not red). Very similar behavior.

Distribution - Altitude range:

Fairly common resident of lowlands and to a lesser extent foothills of  Southern and Central Pacific Slopes, to about a 1550 m, as far North as Atenas by Monte del Aguacate where it is more sporadic.


Flocks of several individuals, typically five, move through all levels of mature forest, second growth, forest edge, semi-open, and gardens. These Aracaries forage as they hop along branches seeking for fruit, insects, tree frogs, and lizards, quite regularly rob eggs, nestlings, and even fledglings. Family groups sleep in a tree cavity or in a hole in an old decaying palm trunk or in an old woodpecker hole. An observed interesting behavior suggests ( in both Costa Rican aracari species ) that as family groups get bigger, several groups come together and through curious interactions and games with their beaks some family members of each group are yielded away to establish new groups. Call is a high pee-seeek or a single seeek, quite similar to that of Collared Aracari.


In a tree cavity or hole in a decaying palm tree, or in an old woodpecker hole, with an unlined chamber, however with presence of regurgitated seeds is typical.  2 eggs, from January to April. Nest is taken care of by two or three adults in the group.

By Noel Ureña

Tropical Feathers


Tropical Feathers,

Pérez Zeledón, Costa Rica

© Tropical Feathers 2023