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Visitors to Peru have the chance to see an extraordinary and puzzling phenomenon — hundreds of macaws and other parrots flock to hillsides with exposed clay, called a clay lick, in order to feed on the minerals. Scientists are not entirely certain why the birds enjoy licking the clay, but some theorize that the birds ingest minerals that neutralize toxins from the seeds in their diet. Research has shown that the birds choose the clay deposits with the most sodium, leading scientists to conclude that the birds also obtain much-needed sodium from the clay, since sodium is rare in the rainforest.
While the birds can be sighted year-round, their numbers peak during the dry season, especially in September and October. During that time, up to 1,000 birds can be spotted at the world’s largest clay lick, located in the heart of the Tambopata Biosphere Reserve in the Amazon Rainforest. This clay lick draws five species of macaws and 15 other species of parrots, creating a kaleidoscope of brightly colored birds. Another option for viewing a clay lick is the more remote and more expensive Manu Biosphere Reserve.
There are several different tour operators who lead expeditions to clay licks. Rainforest Expeditions offers tours within the Tambopata Biosphere Reserve, including a nine-day Birdwatching Tour for hardcore birders. In addition to Tambopata, the thorough Birdwatcher’s Tour also visits Posada Amazonas and Refugio Amazonas for $2,647. Wasai Lodge and Expeditions’ Wild Amazon Expedition package includes a trip to the Tambopata clay lick and is $573 per person for a four-night stay.
For visitors who wish to add a clay licks visit with a thorough Peru exploration, Wild Planet Adventures is currently offering discounts of up to 15 percent. Pair an eight-day, seven-night Galapagos Wildlife Cruise with a Peru Ultimate Wildlife 13-Day Adventure for savings of up to $682 per person. Discounts apply to cruises departing Aug. 25 through Nov. 3. On the Peru tour, visitors will have a chance to see the Sacred Valley, Cusco, Macchu Picchu and both the Manu Biosphere Reserve and the Tambopata Biosphere Reserve. Wild Planet contracts Rainforest Expeditions and uses its lodges during the tour, but also adds special excursions and its own naturalist guide.
Wasai Lodge and Expeditions www.wasai.com/
Wild Planet Adventureswww.wildplanetadventures.com