When visiting Yasuni National Park in the Amazon, one of the tours will take you out to see the parrots and parakeets licking the clay on a cliff along the banks of the Napo River in Ecuador. The tours are organized by the Napo Wildlife Center, whose property is where the licks are located, and the best time to visit is just after dawn in the morning. Activity at the clay lick is even more abundant on mornings when it isn’t raining, so we were fortunate to have a clear day during our visit since it is called a rainforest for obvious reasons.
The night before our tour, our nature guide offered us the choice of sleeping in an extra thirty minutes and having breakfast on the boat or getting up at 4:30 am to eat before departing on the tour. Since we had be up so early every morning, we gladly chose to stay in bed for any extra time that he would offer us and the chef of the lodge prepared a variety of food for us to eat on the boat. Despite being in the jungle, it was surprisingly cool on the water as we made our way to the first of two clay licks that we were to visit that day.
The parrots, parakeets, and macaws visit to the clay lick almost daily because the minerals in the clay counteract the toxins that are in the berries and fruit that they eat in the jungle. Without the clay licks, the birds wouldn’t survive the toxicity that builds up in their small bodies. The birds certainly seem to fully enjoy their time at the clay lick as they chirped and squawked incessantly as they hopped around and flew in and out of the group. There were so many birds that it was hard to distinguish one from another at times. We sat there on our boat for almost an hour as we ate our breakfast and watched the birds eating and playing.
Afterwards, we went to the second clay lick where we had to hike our way into the jungle to get a spot in an observation deck. There was the possibility of a variety of animals from birds to mammals coming to the location, so our group sat there quietly waiting for anything to appear. At one point, we saw a couple of parrots come to the clay lick, but that was all that we saw. After seeing so many birds at the previous clay lick, sitting quietly for three hours to see two birds was a little anticlimactic.
We saw so many different birds and animals during our time in the Amazon, but watching the feeding frenzy at the clay lick was certainly a highlight of our time in the rainforest. It is hard to believe the way that animals learn to adapt to their environment, eating things that are toxic to their systems and then finding ways to counteract what is poisoning their systems. If only there was a clay lick for humans who have gone out at night and had too much to drink, wouldn’t that be nice 🙂 .