April 25, 2012

Clay Licks Along the Napo

Along the Napo River there are occasional high cliffs. One of these has the minerals and clays necessary to healthy parrots.  Many of the fruits in their diet are poisonous and the clay helps neutralize the toxins harmlessly in their stomachs. Hundreds of parrots descent on these licks to nibble and scrape up the clay. In the photo below are hundreds of parrots of about 4-5 species wheeling about and jockeying for space.
If it rains the parrots do not show up. They licks has to dry up a bit before it is attractive to them. There are dozens of such sites both along the Napo and within the jungle itself.  They are quite noisy. We watched them from the boat on the Napo.  All at once a group would burst and fly off and then re-settle. This happened a couple of times. The last time they did not calm and settle back down. This was because a boa constrictor was in the trees above.
In the photo below you can see the fresh scrapings from all the birds. They cling to the sides with their feet, They almost look like magnets.  My advice for people visiting would be to just visit the licks along the Napo River. There are some that can be visited within the jungle and is a short hike. We could hear and see them way above in the trees but they did not come down.
Another reason is that in order to lure parrots to the licks accessible to tourists the native Yasuni poured petrol on clay licks further out forcing the parrots to go to the interior ones they control.  They charge $20 for people to hike in and see these licks and fail to mention that little fact about pouring gas on clay licks in a park. It's up to you but I don't want to encourage that kind of thing. So I suggest not to go and to let people there the reason why. I would not have gone to the inland licks if I had known that.

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