Collared Aracari (S/F-T/G)

Juvenile collared aracari on Isla Nublar, Costa Rica

The collared aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus) is a species of bird in the family Rhamphastidae, or the toucan family. It is found throughout Central and northern South America, and is also known as the banded, ringed, or spot-chested aracari. An omnivore that dwells in forests, this bird can be found from Mexico to Colombia and Venezuela. A population of collared aracaris was known from Isla Nublar, where the local Tun-Si tribe called them mokú-pá (meaning “owl parrot” in the Bribri language).

There are three subspecies of collared aracari:

  • Pteroglossus torquatus torquatus, eastern and central Mexico to northwestern Colombia
  • Pteroglossus torquatus erythrozonus, southeastern Mexico through Belize and northern Guatemala
  • Pteroglossus torquatus nuchalis, northeastern Colombia and northern Venezuela

Based on locality, the subspecies found on Isla Nublar is most likely P. t. torquatus.

Description

The collared aracari is of typical build for a toucan, with a distinctively large bill (this may make up a third of its overall body length). Its total body length as an adult is between 39 and 41 centimeters (15.5 to 16 inches), and it may weigh between 190 to 275 grams (6.7 to 9.7 ounces). As with all of its kind, it has zygodactyl feet; two toes face forward and two face back. Those seen on Isla Nublar demonstrate uncharacteristically anisodactyl feet, but this may be due to the unreliable narrative given in Jurassic Park: The Game‘s recounting of the latter half of the 1993 incident.

As with most toucans, the color of the collared aracari can be quite striking. The exposed skin on the head is black, turning red behind the eyes. Its irises are bright yellow. In addition to the black skin, the feathers of the head are black, as are those of the neck and body; on the rear side of the neck is a horizontal band of red which gives this animal its common name. The lower part of the bill is also black; the upper bill is yellow with tooth-like black markings, a black tip, and sometimes reddish markings toward the base. Its underbelly is yellow, turning olive toward its chest; there is a black spot in the middle of the breast, and the belly is marked by a horizontal red-edged black band. Its rear and upper tail are red, and the thighs are chestnut-colored while its legs are green.

Growth

Collared aracaris hatch without feathers and with a proportionately shorter beak. The chicks have pads on their feet to protect them from rough surfaces, as the nests lack lining.

As they grow, the feathers initially are duller in color; juveniles can be told apart from adults by their subdued red colors, sooty black parts, and paler belly. The band and spot on the underside are duller and more indistinct in juveniles.

This species fledges after about six weeks.

Sexual Dimorphism

Collared aracaris do not exhibit a significant amount of sexual dimorphism.

Habitat
Preferred Habitat

The collared aracari is a forest-dwelling bird, commonly found in lowlands and somewhat sparser woodland regions. It is found in warm, tropical environments throughout Latin America.

Isla Nublar

This bird has been known on Isla Nublar throughout history. Much of the island consists of lowland forests and woodland, which are ideal breeding and foraging habitats for the aracari. However, it was likely disturbed from its habitat by InGen activity on the island beginning in 1988.

On June 11, 1993, a single juvenile was sighted in the evening in the eastern forests of the island near the tertiary dilophosaur paddock. It had likely been startled by human activity, as it would not normally be active in the evening during inclement weather. The following morning, approaching midday, a juvenile was sighted at the maintenance building of the primary Triceratops paddock, where it was seen sharpening its bill on an oil can.

Known (red) and hypothetical (purple) range of P. torquatus on Isla Nublar as of June 12, 1993

The effects of InGen activity on the collared aracari’s population between 1993 and 2015 are unknown; between 2002 and 2015, much of the central and southern island was redeveloped into a tourist attraction, which would have destroyed aracari habitat. In addition, the many de-extinct animals introduced to the island would have competed with it for food. If there were any collared aracaris remaining on Isla Nublar by June 23, 2018, they may have become extinct due to the eruption of Mount Sibo. This destroyed most of the northern island, including much of the last remaining heavily-forested parts of Isla Nublar at the time. With its food sources greatly diminished, the collared aracari may now be extinct on the island.

Isla Sorna

While Isla Sorna contains much suitable habitat for the collared aracari, its isolated location makes it uncertain if the bird could reach it. There is currently no evidence of its existence there.

Other

The collared aracari is found commonly throughout Latin America, breeding from Mexico to the northern parts of Colombia and Venezuela.

Behavior and Ecology
Daily Activity

This bird is generally diurnal. On Isla Nublar, juveniles have been known to be active between morning and midday, while one was seen active in the evening. This individual had been disturbed by human activity at the time and so may have been active at an unusual time.

Collared aracaris sleep with their tails folded over their backs.

Diet and Feeding Behavior

Collared aracaris are omnivores, though they mostly feed on fruit. The large beak is used to pluck fruits and other food from the trees it inhabits. It will also eat eggs, as well as small animals such as lizards and insects.

Social Behavior

This species is more social than some other toucans, with up to six animals roosting in one hollow together at night and throughout the year. Rearing the young is a communal activity and may involve individuals that are related to each other, such as older siblings. If so, the collared aracari might hold strong family bonds.

During the day, groups of collared aracaris can be seen flying through their habitat in groups of six to fifteen.

Reproduction
Adult collared aracari seen in Costa Rica, 2008. Original photo by Joseph C. Boone.

Collared aracaris make their nests in tree hollows or abandoned woodpecker nests. Their nests lack lining, and so may contain rough surfaces. The female will lay three white eggs in the nest, with both parents incubating them for about sixteen days. When the eggs hatch, the young are featherless and unable to fend for themselves; the parents, often accompanied by up to three other adults, will feed the chicks. The helpful adults may be offspring of the same to parents from a previous brood.

After approximately six weeks, the young become fledglings, and are able to leave the nest. The adults will continue to help them find food for the next several weeks, though.

Vocalizations

The cry of the collared aracari is a loud and quick pseek or peeseek sound.

Ecological Interactions

For the most part, this animal is a frugivore. This means that it would be important in spreading fruiting plants throughout its environment by means of seeds. Fruit found on Isla Nublar include native species such as the golden dewdrop (Duranta erecta) and banana (Musa callimusa) as well as introduced species such as the Moreton Bay fig (Ficus macrophylla) and West Indian lilac (Tetrazygia bicolor). All of these plants are known to attract birds with their fruits, and so could be spread on Isla Nublar by the collared aracari.

This bird also will eat small animals such as insects and lizards, helping to keep their populations under control. It may eat eggs from time to time, which would not only control bird populations, but also the introduced dinosaur species InGen brought to Isla Nublar beginning in 1988. However, most of the carnivorous dinosaurs were easily large enough to kill a collared aracari. As of the 1993 incident, collared aracaris were known to exist in or near territories inhabited by Dilophosaurus, Troodon, Triceratops, and Tyrannosaurus. Its natural predators likely included the common northern boa, which was the largest carnivore on the island prior to 1989.

They will make their nests in the abandoned homes of woodpeckers, though there are currently no confirmed woodpecker species on Isla Nublar.

Interactions with Humans

This bird is one of the charismatic fauna of Latin America, and so is partially responsible for the tourist industry in that part of the world. However, tourism to Isla Nublar was primarily focused on the InGen facilities built on the island, rather than the island’s native wildlife. The collared aracari was known to the indigenous Tun-Si tribe, who called the bird mokú-pá; like the other animals of Isla Nublar, it would have taken part in building Mount Sibo in the Tun-Si’s mythic past.

Two juvenile collared aracaris (or possibly the same individual twice) were encountered during the incident on Isla Nublar in 1993, once by corporate spies Miles Chadwick and Nima Cruz, and once by InGen veterinarian Dr. Gerry Harding. Neither encounter was of particular significance.

The habitat of the collared aracari is impacted by human interests, both on Isla Nublar and on the mainland. While a 2005 agreement between Masrani Global Corporation and the Costa Rican Department of Biological Preserves ensured that some wild spaces were left for Isla Nublar’s wildlife, much of the central and southern island was deforested to construct guest facilities. Following the 2015 incident, no effort was made to preserve Isla Nublar’s ecosystem (either the natural or artificial aspects); following June 23, 2018, this iconic species may no longer exist on the island at all.