MACAW CLAY-LICK (COLLPA
clay-lick in the first few hours after dawn
must be seen to be believed. After the first
few rays of the morning sun begin to hit the
eroded river bank cliff face, hundreds of
parrots and macaws belonging to ten or more
species arrive and alight in nearby trees.
They arrive in discrete pairs or in flocks
hundreds strong, depending on the species.
Then, with a flapping of wings and ear-splitting
squawks, they begin landing on the face of
the cliff to consume small portions of the
clay. Generally the smaller parrot species (Dusky-headed
parakeets, Mealy parrots, Blue-headed
parrots, Orange-cheeked parrots) descend
first, followed by the larger macaws (Blue
and yellow macaw, Scarlet macaw, Red and
Green macaw, Blue-headed macaw, Chestnut-fronted
macaw, Red-bellied macaw). At any one time
there can be up to 500 parrots and macaws in
the vicinity of the lick.
The precise reason for this spectacular
behaviour is still under debate and is the
subject of research. Theories suggest that
the clay may contain vital salts and
minerals which are usually lacking in the
birds' frugivorous diet.
It is thought that the very small clay
particles themselves are consumed in order
to detoxify the bird's fruit diet. Many
fruit and nuts, especially when unripe,
defend themselves against predation using a
plethora of toxic chemicals. The clay
particles are small enough to mop up toxins
before they get into the body.
Collpa Colorado, the largest known macaw
clay-lick in the world, is located on the
Tambopata river about 120 km upstream from
Puerto Maldonado (4-5 hrs upstream from the
lodge) and is one of the most spectacular
natural phenomena in all Amazonia. The
Tambopata Eco Lodge operates special
excursions to the lick.