Clay lick diet study in Tambopata, Peru
Posted: 02 August 2007 03:42 PM   [ Ignore ]
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My friend Dr. Don Brightmith has sharing all the information of the on going
research of the diet study .

It is interesting to note that the scarlet macaws in Peru ate the soil

(copa) from the Tambopata clay licks with a high sodium content in the licks

and that the surrounding soil (other than the licks) in the Tambopata area and other close

parts of South America have very low to no sodium content in the soil .

Interesting also is that they fed their babies less and less soil as they got older.

Plants don’t need sodium and unlike animals are able to live without salt with

no problem .

But in Central America ( such as Costa Rica) where the scarlets do just the opposite

and do NOT eat copa (soil) there the soil is so loaded with sodium (salt )

that it could compete with a Big Mac for ...a salt contest !

Also we saw photos of the crop contents of the baby scarlet macaws ....and

they were high in roughage with even bits of bark ..very much like the adult

diets! Then he said maybe they need more of a diet with roughage more than we

thought and said think how we would be doing if we were eating strained baby food and

then ...think of the problems you would be having with no roughage.

The charts showed that the baby birds for much of the beginning were much

heavier than the bird chicks of the same age born in captivity and it was not

until later on that the curve changed and that the captive birds became the

ones that were heavier ....Also he said they are not sure but they do not see

any evidence that the wild chicks loose weight at time fledgling like baby parrots

in captivity do. The diets in the wild birds studied had lower zinc and potassium

and higher calcium and magnesium than what is in pellets.

In fact what has been found is that they can take 50 x’s more ( ingested ) toxins than we can, and they are eating the copa for sodium when it is lacking in the area they live in and not for toxins as we once thought.
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Ciao, Angela Rosaria Cancilla Herschel in Southern California ......
Being kind is more important ... than being important.

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Ciao, Angela Rosaria Cancilla Herschel in Southern California ......
Being kind is more important ... than being important.
“You be good…..I love you. ...you be in tomorrow?”—Alex the African Grey Parrot (1976-2007)

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Posted: 02 August 2007 05:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Have seen the same sodium requirements in day one through seven chicks in captive breeding.
Other trace minerals are also consumed heavily at this time.
Celery and chard and vine spinach are three fine stem greens that provide mineral content to captive parents feeding chicks. Celery is significantly high in sodium. Parrots raised in hollow logs chew up and feed log cellulose to chicks, even at night.

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Posted: 02 August 2007 08:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Hi ,
Don just emailed me that now in fact they have information that the wild birds do in fact lose weight before fledging .


[Don wrote]

Hi Angela,

I saw your message today. There was one error in it. The wild birds DO lose weight before fledging. We have good information on that that I hope to get published in the coming year.

Take care,

Don

Donald Brightsmith
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Ciao, Angela Rosaria Cancilla Herschel in Southern California ......
Being kind is more important ... than being important.

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Ciao, Angela Rosaria Cancilla Herschel in Southern California ......
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“You be good…..I love you. ...you be in tomorrow?”—Alex the African Grey Parrot (1976-2007)

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Posted: 31 August 2007 06:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Posted: 07 September 2007 10:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Dear Yuri,

You’ve raised a number of interesting issues here, thank you!

I have a doubt about clay ingestion. I observed in Andes,that Local People use a special coal made of special tree bark assiciated with a special clay. This is used when they have to go in high places above 4.000 metres. This mix is used to potencialize the benefits of Coca Leaves. So, Calcium and Magnesium elevates the PH. Alkalinize.

As it turns out clay ingestion, charcoal ingestion, and lime (or other alkaline materials) ingestion are potentially quite different.  Here’s a brief review in case it’s of use:

Clay can do any number of things in a vertebrate gut, releasing minerals and adsorbing charged particles are the best known, and since they take place virtually simultaneously, it’s hard to get one without the other, regardless of ‘why’ the bird or mammal chose to eat the clay in the first place.  But clay also causes cellular and acellular changes in the lining of the gut, and these changes can have a profound influence on digestive efficiency, on the ability of the gut to sustain chemical insults from dietary components, as well as other functions, mostly unstudied.

Charcoal which is, broadly speaking, cooked rather than burned wood, has an incredibly high surface area and has an affinity to most small compounds regardless of their electrical charge.  That’s why it is so often used in emergency treatments of humans who have ingested dangerous chemicals - it functions like a chemical sponge, soaking up all sorts of things in various parts of the gut.

Alkaline materials such as lime can, as you say, make certain plant constituents available to vertebrates - and yes, that’s why coca leaf and betel nut and other plants are consumed with lime.  In fact, it’s the same with corn which in parts of Central and South America is treated with lime to become masa harina - the lime adds calcium of course, but its alkalinity also makes the available niacin go through the roof, and therefore the corn becomes far more nutritious.  Few clays we’ve tested so far have the high pH required to provide this kind of role for the parrots.

The extinct Scarlet Macaws in North Bolívia, based in ex-trapper information, used to eat some “salts” in Bat´s feces deposits in tree holes. The trapper used to fix a trap in tree hole, and wait the birds come to “salitrar”, and then he trap a Macaw by neck. All Scarlet Macaws in this area were trapped in 80´s by this way. This is a very curious fact.

Of course macaws and other parrots do enter cavities which aren’t their nests, however in my experience, that’s been about drinking fresh water.  We’ve also found soldier fly larvae in the crops of chicks in Peru, and those kinds of larve are often to be found in the bottoms of cavities (including in parrot nests) because they love the moist piles of bird and bat poop typically found there.  It was never clear if the adults were grabbing these larvae in their own nests, in other cavities, or if the chicks (which where big enough to do so) were possibly picking them up off the cavity floor.  (If the last is true, it’s a bizarre and amusing sort of recycling!)

That said, there have been some interesting and weird behaviors seen at cavities, notably a group of Pionites leucogaster which frequented a cavity near Puerto Maldonado (on Lake Sandoval if memory serves).  It seemed at the time that there was more going on there than just drinking - too habitual and too many birds, etc.  I wonder if this cavity had a huge bat roost in it and therefore a similar sort of salitrar.  We ran a picture of these guys on the back of a PsittaScene with a caption noting that it was never clear what was going on here (http://www.parrots.org/pdfs/our_publications/psittascene/2003/03Feb54.pdf)

A family of bats (or families depending on the size of the cavity) can produce quite a lot of excrement over time, and the insects living in the bottom of the cavity can process that all very quickly.  It would be wonderfully bizarre for macaws to consume either fresh or composted bat guano as a means to acquire sodium, however, stranger things have happened.  My guess is that, if they are in fact consuming such delectable delights, there’s more going on here - pursuing insects or protein perhaps - and further study would be of great interest.

Eating feces has a name incidentally - coprophagy (or allocoprophaghy if it’s someone elses feces wink, it’s something our close relatives the gorillas do with some frequency (http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=14573986), and of course it’s very widespread in small herbivorous animals like rabbits and guinea pigs if I’m not mistaken.  Some even produce two kinds of feces, one to eat and one to not eat (night feces or cecotropes).  To me, it would seem that eating bat feces, however processed, would be asking for serious disease and parasite problems, but as this primate paper suggests, there could be some upsides to that as well.

OK, this is beyond gross, but deeply intriguing!

All best wishes,

Jamie

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Posted: 09 September 2007 06:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Posted: 10 September 2007 05:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I know artificial box sucess but I have very few informations about PVCs. Maybe you could clearify some datails. I think in tall PVC for BTMs, to prevent Toucans.

i’ll look for your other post on this.  some macaws like the tall PVC nest boxes, some do not.  my recollection is that it’s mostly been scarlet macaws which take to them, but that presumably varies from place to place. 

it’s an interesting idea to use a deep cavity as an anti-toucan strategy.  that has worked with other parrots and other birds when the predator refuses to go into a deep and dark cavity.  since toucans are cavity nesters (and foragers), they must be pretty comfortable going into cavities and they must be pretty clever about climbing up and down them.  one experimental box design we’ve tried in bolivia focus on the entrance being overhanging so that toucans with their weaker legs and lacking the powerful hooked bill of a parrot, will have a hard time entering the cavity in the first place.

I saw BTMs eating Hura sp. as well as Scarlets in Peru, and BTM do not eat clay, and Hura is a Fish Poison. In reality I don´t understand these chemical process

that’s quite interesting that you saw Blue-throated Macaws eating Hura crepitans - can you confirm that and maybe tell us a place and date?  You’re right about Hura being quite toxic to some consumers, it actually includes a compound like ricin (hurin) which is quite toxic to many vertebrates, including fish.  (ricin is found most commonly in the castor bean - a widespread agricultural weed and sometimes oil source for biodiesel production - especially in Brazil!)

i think it’s really hard to rule out geophagy in any parrot - they can be very sneaky about it - sometimes eating off the root ball of fallen trees, sometimes eating arboreal termite nests, and other places where it would be hard to observe.  to really rule it out, you’d need to sample a lot of feces and look for compounds like titanium and other minerals found in soils but not found in plants.

About Pionites, Oh ! Very Strange Small Parrot. I saw a few pairs and small families. Never big flocks. And it fight a lot against each other. Very sharp beaks, with large heads. Is very nice to see them in flight.

yes, they are wonderful, boisterous, and seem to hang around in tight family groups ... like gangs of cocky little troublemakers ... great fun!

I saw HMs in Pantanal eating larvae inside Palm nuts. And they seems to search for larvae, I saw them testing some nuts for larvae. Putting the ear against the nut. For me they are searching for larvae. This is very strange because in early times people think that Macaws are only nut predators…

This is a very interesting observation indeed!  Gang gang cockatoos do this in dead tree trunks, listen for big grubs working inside, then dig in and grab the grub - i think those are called witchetty grubs - more info here http://www.mjhall.org/bushtucker/page5.htm.  Again, if you have more info on the hyacinths, where and when they were seen doing this, which palm seed was involved, etc., please let us know.

Now we know that they eat very dangerous plants , larvae, “feces”, bamboo, clay, flowers, and etc…

do you know of places where hyacinths eat clay or are you talking about macaws in general?

And I have another question….a Biochemical one : Based on information that all Macaws came from South America, and some species colonize the new Continent of Central America. Based on information posted above that Central America have more Salt in the soil I would like to ask if there is the possibility that Ara macao cyanoptera evolution have a link between soil characteristics of South America Soil and Central America Soil. Maybe this causes changes in biochemical process and lead to determine some Fenotipic Plasticity. This could “explain” speciation in Ara macao…

An interesting idea, although the transitional area from one subspecies of A. macao to the next is well into Central America if I’m not mistaken (Costa Rica or Nicaragua?).  Also, while coastal areas in CA are likely to have plenty of sodium because of the ocean’s influence, large portions of Honduras and Nicaragua are quite rainy and far from the ocean - thus many forests there where A. macao lives are likely to be quite low in sodium as well.

That said, phenotypic variation can be incredibly important in determining size and coloration of birds, including parrots.  So the dietary differences between a macaw in central brazil vs central guatemala might well cause profound differences - perhaps greater than just the green tips to the wing coverts distinguishing these two subspecies.  It’s possible that they are genetically different without that showing up in their morphology, coloration, etc., and the consequences of hypothesized dietarty differences are just as hard to predict. 

All best wishes,

Jamie

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Posted: 11 September 2007 08:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Posted: 11 September 2007 12:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I never knew a parrot that did not eat some sort of inorganic mineral material i.e. soil, grit, sand, clay, dirt, CaCO3 or the like. From budgies to hyacinths, I think it is the rule. Even eclectus, which are primarily soft food eaters, and lorikeets which are noted as fruit and pollen consumers will sample soil and crunch it up, certainly during nesting times.

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Posted: 12 September 2007 06:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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