Most Memorable Moments: Rio Madre de Dios Clay Lick


This post inaugurates a new semi-regular series, Most Memorable Moments, featuring some of the most memorable natural history experiences that WC has been lucky enough to enjoy. Sometimes nature can be magical and memorable, and, yes, it’s still magical even when you know how and why it works.

The Madre de Dios River, a tributary of the Amazon River, drains eastern Peru. Below Manu, there’s an abandoned dry channel perhaps a quarter mile from the main, active channel, with a modest cut bank. The cut bank exposes a long vein of clay. That clay attracts many species of parrot, who, depending on which ornithologist you are talking to, use the clay to detoxify the plants they eat, or as a source of supplemental sodium. Among the parrots species drawn in are the magnificent Red and Green Macaws.

Red and Green Macaws near the Madre de Dios clay lick, Peru

It starts with a few birds gathering around, waiting for someone else to go first.

Red and Green Macaws near the Madre de Dios clay lick, Peru

While there are smaller Cobalt-winged and Mealy Parrots at the lick, most of Macaws wait until some brave bird goes first to show it’s reasonably safe. The waiting birds accumulate around and above the lick. Finally, a single bird goes down and, 10-15 seconds later, the party starts.

Red and Green Macaws near the Madre de Dios clay lick, Peru

And it does seem to be a party. The big birds fly in and out, chatter, squawk and squabble, all while noshing on the clay in the cut bank. The colors, noise and action on spectacular. It’s impossible to count, but there were more than a hundred birds the day we were there, scattered along the length of the cut bank, hanging out in the surrounding vegetation or jetting by.

Red and Green Macaw in flight, carrying a lump of clay; Rio de Madros Clay Lick, Peru

It’s an amazing, unforgettable spectacle, the colorful birds, the constant calls and macaw chatter. The show goes on for an hour or more, and then, over the course of ten minutes or so, the Macaws all fly off, leaving a ringing silence and a plain dirt bank. And amazing memories.

One thought on “Most Memorable Moments: Rio Madre de Dios Clay Lick

  1. Pingback: Most Memorable Moments: Rio Madre de Dios Clay Lick — Wickersham’s Conscience – ° BLOG ° Gabriele Romano

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