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Macaws at the Clay Lick

What happens when people do not get all the vitamins and minerals that they need? Well, they might take additional vitamins. Or perhaps they will make sure that they are eating certain kinds of foods to make sure they get the nutrients they need to stay healthy. 

Animals are no different. In fact, animals, like people, will seek out the vitamins and minerals that they need to in order to be fit and strong, so they can fly, or burrow, or run fast.

You might remember that last week we took a look at the beautiful birds known as macaws. Macaws have a way to make sure they are getting enough salt in their diets. What do they do?

They eat clay!

 It is not unusual to see several macaws gather together at clay licks where they will perch and eat clay along exposed river banks. The video below gives a good idea of what feeding time looks like.

Although the rainforest has many different kinds of plants and animals, there is not much in the way of nutrients that provide sodium, or salt. But the macaws are not just adding salt. Scientists believe that the birds eat the clay as a means of obtaining vitamin B12, another important nutrient that both humans and animals depend on for good health.

Something to Think About: As you just read, the macaw eats clay to get additional salt in its diet. Can you think of other examples of how animals or people get the nutrients they need from some unexpected sources?

Want to Learn More: Visit the San Diego Zoo Macaw page and the Tambopata Macaw Project.

Rainforest Kids Science curriculum connection: Unit 3, Chapter 3, Lesson 1, Grades K-5

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