Macaws and parrots in general of the Amazon rainforest specialize in clay. They gathered together on the banks of the river to peck the land, which created a splendid spectacle that attracted thousands of tourists.
But why do these birds eat clay? A majority of scientists think that they lack sodium in their diet. Sodium is essential for many body activities. Many herbivores have a complete plant-based diet. Their bodies require more salt because plants do not contain enough salt. Therefore, animals often feed on sodium by licking salt. Clays and soils contain lots of sodium, as well as many other nutrients like potassium and magnesium.
In addition, it is not excluded the ability of parrots to eat clay to eliminate toxins in the body from their regular food. When parrots eat clay, the clay particles react with natural toxins like quinine and tannic acid, which prevent the toxins from being absorbed from the digestive tract. However, research seems to suggest that this species of parrot deficits sodium.
For parrots in the Amazon, sodium is considered essential for the functioning of the nervous system as well as muscle contraction. The supply of sodium in tropical rainforests is often difficult to find but is stored in clay tablets. It is estimated that the Amazon clay soils contain 40 times more sodium than the foods that parrots normally consume. Sodium is essential but often severely lacking in the diet of the Amazon parrot. Therefore, they need to eat clay, especially during important times like pregnancy.
There are many locations in Paraguay, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Ecuador in the Amazon rainforest where visitors can come across clay-eating parrots. However, most tourists choose the Tambopata National Reserve in southeastern Peru to visit because the terrain there is quite convenient for travel. In addition, visitors can visit this parrot in Manu National Park, also in Peru, or Yasuni National Park, in Ecuador. These two locations also attract a large number of visitors.