“Polly Wants a Cracker…A Clay One”
Polly always wants a cracker. When it comes to parrots, this is a truth we can stand by. But why are parrots talking!? What are these things?! What a fascinating animal. So fascinating, in fact, that I’ve chosen to dedicate much time to learning about them and their struggles. After all, who doesn’t want to know more about macaws, some of the most colorful animals on the planet?
Truth is, macaws are a type of parrot that unfortunately face a number of obstacles, like deforestation and illegal trapping. Fortunately, there are passionate people who spend their lives in defense of these rainbowed speakers.
The Tambopata Macaw Project, founded in 1989 by Eduardo Nycander, is a much cherished source of large macaw research and protection. The project, located on the Tambopata River in Peru, is another gem in the vast richness that is the Peruvian wildlife.
Donald Brightsmith is the director of the Tambopata Macaw Project. His genius has time and time again benefited the livelihood of macaws through relentless research, yielding paper after paper of significant information regarding macaws, from their breeding, to clay lick ecology. The project has a special interest in “chicos”, which are macaws that have been hand-reared by researchers. This allows for visitors to have a unique experience with macaws that have been raised in captivity and bred healthfully.
In Dr. Brightsmith’s words, the Tambopata Macaw Project helps the future of macaws, “by working to learn about the natural history—biology—and management techniques that can help them; and then dispersing this knowledge to others who work on these birds.”
The project maintains such a vivid perspective on macaw research because it is located on one of the largest macaw clay licks in the world. A clay lick is precisely what it sounds like—a large wall of clay that macaws feed on to obtain nutrients. Clay licks often hold hundreds of macaws at a time, and so you can imagine the excitement and the clamor involved! This clay lick, in particular, attracts a variety of birds, the area’s specialty being the blue-headed macaw.
So sure, maybe Polly really just wants some clay. Bet ya didn’t know that, now did ya!
Note: For animal lovers who are interested in keeping parrots as pets, Dr. Brightsmith has some helpful words of wisdom: “A good pellet diet, supplemented with fresh fruits and veggies is a good way to go. Also providing foraging toys—food items like bits of nuts or other favorite foods hidden in places where the birds have to search or open something to find them—are really great for the birds!”