Macaw Lick

The Macaw Lick
Two pairs of blue and gold macaws and a pair of green 
We got out of the boat at a quarter to seven. The first thing we saw was over a hundred scarlet, red and green and several pairs of blue and yellow macaws flying around the trees, before settling high up, eyeing the lick, more arriving in pairs all the time. The noise and colour of these large macaws along the riverbank, in the Peruvian Amazon must surely be one of the world's great wildlife spectacles. There we were sitting on green plastic stools supplied care of Omar, who at eight o'clock served us with tea or coffee, bread rolls which we had with cheese and jam, boiled egg and biscuits, on the other side of the river was this real life that would be incredible to watch on the television, let alone being there in the flesh.

Macaw and parrot clay licks are special deposits of clay along riverbanks or sometimes in the forest interior in the Amazon rainforest. The birds flocks to the clay, usually in waves that start at six-ish and finish around eleven, at breeding times sometimes seen a little later, to eat thumb-sized lumps each day. There are many theories as to why the parrots eat the clay, the long held theory was to detoxify the poisons in their diets of seeds and fruits eaten in rainforest trees and vines. It is known for sure that the parrots feed a lot of clay to their new-born chicks.



We saw: Red-and-Green Macaw, Scarlet Macaw, Blue-and-Gold Macaw, Red-bellied Macaw (only at the lick in the upper Tambopata), Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Mealy Amazon Parrot, Yellow-crowned Amazon Parrot, Dusky-headed Parakeet, White-eyed Parakeet, Dusky-billed Parrotlet, Tui Parakeet, Cobalt-winged Parakeet, Red-shouldered Parrotlet and the Amazonian Parrotlet. Along with several birds of prey, the rarest being the King Vulture, we heard the Dusky Titi Monkey and the Toucan.



While we were waiting for just one brave soldier to be the first to settle on the "lick", we actually saw a couple doing 'ruddies' (centre left of picture). All in the name of entertainment, the neighbours shouted encouragement and others were clearly thinking about it. Of the one hundred and twenty known macaw and parrot clay licks in the Amazon, at least a hundred of them are found in the Peruvian Amazon. Only seven of these clay licks are offered to tourists and five of these seven are found in Peru. The largest known macaw gatherings occurs at the large licks in the upper Tambopata (January 1994 cover story in National Geographic Magazine). The Madre de Dios River downstream from the mouth of the Manu River, often referred to as the "Blanquillo Lick", because of the small stream by that name, is currently the world's most visited large macaw clay lick, with nearly three thousand tourists visiting here annually. 



We watched for ages as the birds got braver by settling in the lower palms, eventually Pathfinder was the first down to ground level




Sadly we had a visitor that frightened the birds into a real paddy. They are not afraid of Vultures but Kites and this Black Hawk do




Flying in fear, the noise was colossal. We went to the shade of the boat to allow time for the gang to settle once more




Very skittish it took quite a time for the palms to be settled in
Final look round
Finally they settled in greater numbers
And we got the sight we had waited patiently for (140 mm)
Pathfinder was joined by loads of friends (600 mm)