The Fascinating World of Parrot Foraging; Palm fruit and nut and other seeds.

Read this article about Hyacinth macaws native foods in South America:

 In the Land of the Hyacinth Macaw By: Jessie Zgurski   http://zoologica.wordpress. com/2010/06/23/theä-hyacinth- macaw/

Attalea (cousin of the "Acuri" palm nut) Acrocomia "Bocaiuva", "Licuri", "Buri" palm nuts as well as Terminalia catappa nuts which many other parrots species enjoy.

These palm fruit and nuts are foraged on by Macaws, Palm cockatoos and other parrots, however each plant species fruit is foraged upon in specific ways based upon stage of ripeness, part of the fruit eaten and species chosen.  As opposed to the very hard specific species of palm nuts which only nut-cracking macaws and large cockatoos can tackle, most other parrots are naturally drawn to, tear apart, and eat the corky textured Terminalia nut.  Greys, Poicephalus, and similar sized parrots enjoy chewing up the corky exterior and cracking the challenging center surrounding the very nutritious nut.   See this article about how hyacinth macaws bill chisel size is most suitable for Attalea and Acrocomia aculeata nuts!   and also how Lear's macaw's bill chisel size is designed for Licuri palm nuts. "A. hyacinthinus are high specialized to eat two palm fruit species bocaiúva (Acrocomia aculeata) and acuri (Attlea phalerata)" (Schneider, Serbena, and Robaldo Guedes 2006)   Behavioral categories of hyacinth macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) during the reproductive period, at South Pantanal, Brazil  Additionally, a historical review of foods that Hyacinth macaws and relatives eat emphasizing Attalea and Acrocomia


Some recent research on the feeding habits of the Anodorhynchus Macaws

Attalea, Acrocomia, Licuri, Buri and Terminalia nuts:  

1. With these species parrots are challenged by a maximum performance food item!  These palm seeds (nuts) are extremely hard, much harder than macadamia or Brazil nuts, this helps them withstand the efforts of seed predators.  Macaws are seed predators, that in captivity, almost never get to work out that magnificent masterpiece of a bill (and all the nut cracking muscles) that power it.  Attalea palm nuts fulfill a macaw's foraging anatomy and foraging instinct.  Plain and simply, Attalea palm nuts require a macaw the opportunity to use their beaks and tongues at MAXIMUM performance - the way they were meant to be used to forage naturally.

2. Arguably, these palm species influenced the development of the massive nut cracking bills and muscles of the large macaws in a natural "arms race".  With successive generations of palms having harder and harder nuts that were better able to survive being crushed by predators, thus, being able to pass on their hard nut traits to subsequent palm generations.  And successive generations of macaws that got better at cracking these harder and harder nuts.

3. Being native range foods, it is likely that these native food items contain nutrients that are beneficial to captive macaws





Attalea and Acrocomia aculeata (Bocaiuva palm), Licuri and Buri palm nuts are the natural wild food of many species of large nut cracking macaws, such as Scarlet macaws, Blue and gold macaws, Green-winged macaws, Hyacinth macaws, Lear's macaws, Military macaws and Buffon's macaws. Lear's Macaws' native diets in some geographic regions mostly consist of the Licuri palm nuts!

These palm nuts are eaten by macaws exclusively for the inner nut kernel.  The outer portion of these two nut species is thin and sticky and/or starchy and is nutrient poor.

Take a look at Attalea (larger, on the left) and Acrocomia aculeata (smaller, on the right).  Scale: each square is a half inch.Each Attalea palm nut is about 1.7 inches wide and 2.5 inches long, hard and heavy like a golf ball and contains up to three kernels inside. (Acrocomia aculeata) nuts are about a 1 inch sphere. 


(Attalea cohune) American oil palm, Cohune palm 


Bocaiuva" palm (Acrocomia aculeata) is native to the Caribbean

south to Argentina. It is considered by naturalist, ornithologist observations and scientific publications to be one of the two regular wild foods of the Hyacinth Macaw and Lear's macaws have been observed feeding upon its nuts.



   http://zoologica.wordpress. com/2010/06/23/the-hyacinth- macaw/

Fan palm fruits are enjoyed by a wide range of parrot species in the wild; Psittacula, Aratinga, Pyhurra, Ara, Poicephalus, Cacatua, and other parrots enjoy scraping the orange mealy pilp off the seed of the ripe palm fruit. The edible pulp portion is bright orange and likely very high in carotenoids and vitamins. 
(Veitchia arecina) is a favored food of Goffin's (Tanimbar), Philippine/Red-vented, Ducorp's, White/Umbrella, Salmon-crested/Seram/Moluccan, Yellow-crested, Sulphur-crested, Citron-crested cockatoos. These cockatoo species are all native to various parts of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippine Islands and all eat the often fatty, moist, low fiber outer flesh of palm fruit and discard the nut unharmed. Look-alike species such as Johanis Palms, Manilla Palm and Foxtail Palm are not eaten by wild cockatoos as their fruits in any stage are unpalatable, being too watery/mucilagenous and/or fibrous.

This red palm nut species is a staple wild food of Goffin's, Umbrella/White and Salmon-crested cockatoos.  These cockatoos species feed on these palm fruits daily as long as fruits are available on palms.  

Licuri and Buri palm nuts

(Syagrus coronata) and (Allagoptera caudescens)

The Licuri palm (Syagrus coronata) is considered by naturalist, ornithologist observations and scientific publications to be the main food of the Lear's macaw and other blue macaws in some of their native ranges. (see the hyperlinks to references on the "LINKS" page at top of page).


The Buri palm (Allagoptera caudescens) produces a similar nut to the Licuri and is found within macaw-populated areas.





Lear's Macaws foraging on Licuri Palm nuts (Syagrus coronata) in their native habitat.






There are so many great things to say about this nut.

The outer layer of the nut is fibrous and cardboard-like; the next innermost layer is denser and cork-like; finally, the central portion that protects the kernel is rough and hard.

...and the best part is.....

The nut kernel inside all of that is more nutritious than walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts and many other nuts (and a lot fresher than commercial nuts too!).

For example,

100 g of Terminalia catappa nut kernel has more protein, and a whopping 12x more potassium, 3x more calcium and 2.9x more magnesium than an equivalent 100 g of almonds! 

African Poicephalus, Grey parrots and Palm cockatoos are reported to feed upon Terminalia in the wild as synopsized and reported by Juniper and Parr (1998) in their "A guide to parrots of the world"  book.

Terminalia catappa nut's nutritional profile can be seen here:


Terminalia catappa nutritional synopsis: 

4.13% moisture, 23.78% crude protein, 4.27% ash, 4.94% crude fiber, 51.80% fat, 16.02% carbohydrate Potassium (9280 mg/100g) Calcium (827.20 mg/100g),  Magnesium (798.6 mg/100g)  Sodium (27.89 mg/100g) Fats: high levels of unsaturated fatty acids, especially oleic (up to 31. 48%) and linoleic (up to 28.93%). The dominant saturated acids were palmitic (up to 35.96%) and stearic (up to 4.13%)

For comparison, other common nut nutrition can be seen here:

Almond nutrition for an equivalent 100g sample (conversion from a sample size of 1 oz to sample size of 100 g)  [1 oz = 28 grams, 100g/28g = 3.57 conversion factor]:

Protein 21.5%

Potassium  714 mg

Calcium  268 mg

Magnesium  271 mg