Observation of geophagy by Hispaniolan Crossbill (<em>Loxia megaplaga</em>) at an abandoned bauxite mine

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Steven C. Latta

Abstract: I report an observation of endangered Hispaniolan Crossbill (Loxia megaplaga) feeding on soils near abandoned bauxite mines in the Sierra de Bahoruco, Dominican Republic. Although geophagy has been widely reported from a number of bird taxa, especially Neotropical parrots and boreal carduelines, this is the first report of this behavior from birds in the Caribbean. Based on the known ecology of this crossbill and published reports of local soil characteristics, I suggest testable hypotheses on why soils may be ingested by this species, including the crossbills’ need for dietary salts and their need to detoxify the pine seeds which are their main diet items.

Keywords: calcium, crossbills, diet, geophagy, Hispaniola, Loxia megaplaga, soil, toxicity

Resumen: Observación de geofagia en Loxia megaplaga en una mina de bauxita abandonada- Observé a Loxia megaplaga, especie amenazada de La Española, alimentándose de barro cerca de minas de bauxita abandonadas en la Sierra de Bahoruco, República Dominicana. Aunque la geofagia ha sido registrada ampliamente en numerosos taxones de aves, especialmente en loros y carduelínidos boreales, este es el primer registro de esta conducta en el Caribe. Basado en el conocimiento de la ecología de esta especie y en los registros publicados sobre las características de los suelos locales, sugiero una hipótesis comprobable de por qué ingieren barro estas especies que incluye la necesidad de suplementos de sales y de detoxificar las semillas de pino que constituyen el principal artículo de su dieta. 

Palabras clave: calcio, dieta, geofagia, La Española, Loxia megaplaga, barro, toxicidad 

Résumé: Observation d’un Bec-croisé d’Hispaniola (Loxia megaplaga) présentant un comportement de géophagie dans une mine de bauxite abandonnée. Un Bec-croisé d’Hispaniola (Loxia megaplaga) a été observé mangeant de la terre à proximité des mines de bauxite de la Sierra de Bahoruco, en République dominicaine. Bien que la géophagie soit bien connue chez de nombreux oiseaux, notamment chez les perroquets néotropicaux et les carduelinés boréaux, il s’agit de la première mention d’un tel comportement concernant des oiseaux de la Caraïbe. Compte tenu de l’écologie de ce Bec-croisé et des données publiées sur les caractéristiques locales du sol, des hypothèses vérifiables sont proposées pour expliquer l’ingestion de terre par cette espèce, incluant la recherche de sels alimentaires et le besoin de détoxification vis-à-vis des graines de pin qui constituent l’élément principal de son régime alimentaire. 

Mots clés: Bec-croisé, calcium, géophagie, Hispaniola, Loxia megaplaga, régime alimentaire, sol, toxicité 

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