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Bird Watching Stories
(Go Back to Wild Bird Page Contents)
»  Aransas in the Fog:
Whooping Cranes
» No Barbeque this Summer 
» Barn Swallow "Mama"  
» Just How Does a Bird Eat Bees?  
» My Birdwatching Adventures in Costa Rica
 » Just Another Golden Eagle  
 » Four Birds in One Tree: 
A Few Days of Birdwatching in England
» Four Calling Birds??? 
» A Very Unique Cardinal 
» Narcissism or Territorial
Defense: Macho Cardinal
» The Last Companion Carolina Paroquet 
» The Ever-Popular Chickadee  
» Convergent Evolution: Meadowlark and Longclaw 
» Barrel Cactus Confrontation 
» Galahs Playing Around and Around and Around ...  
» Who Made Up This Stuff?
Bird Call Mnemonics
» Mesmerizing a Goldfinch 
» The Best Mimic?  
» Prairie Chickens and Woodcocks:
Missouri Ornithology
» Mob Mentality: Who is Really in Control of the Skies?
» The Owl Who Sat Down Beside Me 
» Meeting Hot Shot: The Toddler Peregrine Falcon  
» Seeing 'Sea Parrots'
in Alaska
 » A Rare and Unusual Bird 
Meeting Roger Tory Peterson
» Raven Showoffs 
» Reddish Egrets a nd Canopy Feeding 
 »  Robins and Worms 
Hear, See, Smell, or Feel?
» Hospital Halucinations 
» What Are You Doing Here? Scissortail Flycatcher 
» Wild Bird "Attacks": Just Misunderstandings? 
» Drunken Waxwings and an Unusual Hummingbird Feeder
 » Acorn Woodpecker Defending its Stash
» Why Woodpeckers Don't Get Headaches: Built in Shock Absorber 

By Lynne Page   Illustration by Jeff Riebe 

Maroon-bellied Conures Feed on Gall-forming Homopteran Larvae,” by Pablo Murtuscelli The Wilson Bulletin,Vol. 106,No, 4, December 1994, pp. 769- 770

As chef to several parrots, I find it hard to believe that wild psittacines very often eat anything by accident. I know how
difficult it is to sneak an unwanted gnat-sized tidbit past a bird’s sharp eye and sensitive tongue. Nonetheless, there has existed a school of thought that wild parrots who feed primarily on seeds, fruit, buds and flowers ingest insects only inadvertently. The contrary view was expressed by Forshaw, who wrote in Parrots of the World “that parrots as a group are far more insectivorous than is generally suspected.”

In this brief article, the author describes observations supporting Forshaw’s view. There can be no doubt that the wild maroon-bellied conures (Pyrrhura frontalis) observed by Pablo Martuscelli deliberately seek out and eat insect larvae. These birds were doing just that when seen in March of 1991 and daily for two weeks in March of 1993. The conures were feeding in a massaranduba tree in a lowland forest of Southern Brazil. The massaranduba tree is subject to yearly infestation by winged insects (homopterans) which lay their eggs in the leaves. As the larvae develop, galls form on the leaves. When the larvae reach maximum size, the galls turn red and are about 1 cm. across.
The conures ignored the smaller green galls in favor of the mature red ones. (The birds also ignored the tree’s fruit.) To dine on the larvae, a conure would hold a gall (or the entire leaf) in one foot and open the gall with his beak, picking out and eating the larva. It is clear the conures return to this tree regularly for the purpose of feeding on this seasonal delicacy. 

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