23 February 2019

Photographing a Parrot Clay Lick

No trip to the Amazon would be complete without a visit to a clay lick. On our last trip to Ecuador we did just that and it was so cool.  I had no idea that this sort of thing took place and even just hearing about it, it was hard to imagine.

The story is this: parrots eat all sorts of fruits and nuts in the rainforest as their regular diet, but these foods are acidic and oooooo that can give a bird a belly ache! But low and behold, “nature’s remedy” is right around the corner!

At dawn the sky streams with parrots – in this case, Blue-headed, Mealy Amazon, Dusky-headed, and various macaws – all making a b-line straight to a clay riverbank. Clay, it turns out, neutralizes the acid from the fruits and nuts that they eat so they gobble it up.

To see this spectacle, we got up early and took our boat out to the river.  There was a small strip of clay on a close bank where just a few birds staged on a vine, stretching in to eat the clay, and then there was a large bank where hundreds of parrots flew in, grasping the side of the bank and nibbling away at the clay.

It’s a frenetic scene, with birds flying in and out, others jockeying for space and every now and then, a blast-off where the whole bank would turn green with the color of their wings – these blast-offs were due to hawks coming in for a breakfast of their own. After a few minutes, when the coast was clear, the parrots would settle back in and continue breaking off and eating more bits of clay.

As morning pushed on, the birds took off, headed back into the rainforest….back to fruits and nuts.  It was fun seeing this part of their life stories. For a full trip report, you can click here.

Enjoy Nature’s Wonders!