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Clay Licks in the Amazon Rainforest

As you explore the lush swaths of rainforest around Sacha Lodge, there’s an interesting phenomenon that you will surely come across – the clay licks of the Ecuadorian Amazon. It’s an odd site at first – hundreds of colorful parrots flocking to these walls of clay and eagerly licking it in an unparalleled display for avid and novice birders alike. But why do they do this?

In fact, the clay licks like those around Sacha Lodge can be found throughout the Ecuadorian tropical jungle and serve an important role in the health and nutrition of these birds. While ecologists still debate the precise reason why, there are several widely held hypotheses that most scientists agree on.

Balancing the acidic diet

The tropical birds that call the rainforest their home have a diet that consists primarily of fruit, which is naturally highly acidic. On top of that, the fruit of the Amazon is impacted by the fungi, which increases the acidity even more. In turn, the birds whose diets consist almost exclusively of this fruit would experience weakened immune systems and lower liver function if they didn’t have a way to balance this acid. That’s where the clay licks come in – since clay has a higher pH (making it more basic), it balances the acids when it is consumed, much like antacid tablets help us with heartburn after we eat acidic meals.

To supplement the minerals & ward off parasites

Another generally agreed upon belief is that ingesting the clay offers the birds essential vitamins and nutrients that they would otherwise not get in their diets, like magnesium and salt. It also has proven an effective natural remedy to prevent toxins, parasites, and pathogens from affecting their bodies.

Sacha has access to one of the best clay licks in Ecuador!

Visitors of Sacha Lodge enjoy the privilege of the lodge’s proximity to one of the most impressive parrot licks of the Amazon, right on the border of the Yasuni National Park. A short canoe trip down the Napo River will bring guests up close to see this fascinating natural occurrence. You will visit this site in the early morning, especially when conditions are sunny and dry and the parrots flock here in the hundreds.

While you are likely to see parrots flying around the lodge throughout your trip, this is undoubtedly the best way to see them in astounding numbers. Another great way to be immersed in the avian world of the Amazon is climbing the 135-foot (43-meter) Kapok Observation Tower, which ascends right into the canopy and puts you in the heart of the birdlife that defines our corner of the Amazon.

Which parrot species can you expect to see?

Close to 600 bird species have been identified in the Yasuni National Park alone, and five of the many parrot species can be spotted right at this Napo clay lick:

  1. Mealy Amazon Parrot (Amazona farinosa)
  2. Blue-headed Parrot (Pionus menstruus)
  3. Yellow-crowned Amazon Parrot (Amazona ochrocephala)
  4. White-eyed Parakeet (Amazona ochrocephala)
  5. Dusky-headed parakeet (Amazona ochrocephala)

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