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In issue 309 -
When an Older Parrot Has Never Learned Skilful Flight – Complete Psittacine by Eb Cravens
In issue 309 -
Scarlet Macaws – were they really bred by indigenous people in the 12th century? Rosemary Low asks the question
In issue 309 -
Understanding the link between nutrition, hormonal behaviours and the avian endocrine system, Part 1 – The Holistic Parrot by Leslie Moran
In issue 309 -
The Yellow-eared Parrot – continues to expand its range in Colombia. By David Waugh, Correspondent, Loro Parque Fundación
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 The October 2023 edition of Parrots magazine (issue 309) will be available to download from 13th September via a link which will be emailed to subscribers. Single copies will be available from our online shop. You can save money by subscribing – find out more here.

Why Do Parrots Eat Dirt In The Amazon?

Spreads for web Parrots 278 4

By Devorah Bennu, PhD aka “GrrlScientist”. Evolutionary & behavioural ecologist, ornithologist & science writer

There are two likely reasons to eat dirt: to bind and neutralise plant toxins or to obtain rare nutrients.

If you visit Peru, you may be lucky enough to witness one of nature’s most colourful spectacles, hundreds of parrots of up to 18 species congregating on the clay cliffs, known as clay licks, alongside the Tambopata river. These parrots visit these cliffs so they can eat dirt.

But why? What makes this particular dirt so special?

Geophagy (eating soil) is widespread amongst animals and birds, yet no one knows why it occurs. Over the years, two alternative hypotheses have been proposed to explain what may drive this behaviour in wild parrots of the central Amazon Basin. One hypothesis proposes that consumption of toxic plant foods, foliage, fruits or seeds, is necessarily accompanied by geophagy since some soils may absorb and neutralise plant toxins.

The other hypothesis proposes that additional nutritional demands, which accompany reproduction, may drive an increase in geophagy.

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