The Scarlet Macaw dropped his tail as he came in for a landing. He flapped his wings to brake and stretched his feet down as he grasped the branch below. The limb bounced, adjusting itself to accommodate the weight of the bird. The Scarlet Macaw extended his neck and plucked the unripe fruit off the tree. It was early in the season. But unlike other kinds of birds that had to wait until the fruit ripened, he could dig in while it was still green. With his strong beak, he hammered at the hard, outer casing. His effort paid off when, minutes later, he cracked an opening in the exterior. Success! His tough tongue darted inside. Working his way around the interior, he used the rough muscle to scrape the tart meat off the shell and into his mouth. He chewed. Not the soft sweetness it would’ve been had he waited until it was ripe. But maybe some other animal would’ve gotten it by then. He pressed the top and bottom of his beak together — almost like a nutcracker — and ground the flesh and seeds between his tongue and palate.
He called to his partner. Scarlet Macaws usually live in pairs, family groups or flocks of up to 30 to get some protection from their main predators, snakes and birds of prey. His mate called back. She was down by the river. The male lifted off to meet her, a shadow in the thick forest. His streamlined shape, from his long, narrow wings to elongated, graduated tail, let him fly the long distances he needed to get to his daily feeding sites. He landed on the bank and dug his feet into the wet soil. He reached down and bit the mud. He swallowed and took another bite. The clay would help him digest the tannins and other harsh chemicals in the premature fruit he’d just eaten.