Blue Grosbeak vs Chinese Mantis

18 10 2012

Chinese Mantis – Luke Tiller

A nice start to the day when Catherine Hamilton and I picked up the distinctive metallic chip of a Blue Grosbeak out in the field here at Quaker Ridge Hawkwatch. After spending a while  tracking the bird down, to get at least a couple of record shots, we finally found it hanging out on a grass stem at the edge of the main path.

Blue Grosbeak – Catherine Hamilton

As we were watching the bird, a Chinese Mantis flew in near to the bird and landed on the ground. The mantis is an introduced species used here for pest control, although in my experience here they seem happiest munching honey bees as they are any particular pest species.

Blue Grosbeak – Catherine Hamilton

The grosbeak seemed to size up the mantis for a couple of seconds before diving down and striking the insect with its rather impressive bill. The Grosbeak took a few careful lunges, backing up each time to carefully assess this unusual prey item (I’ve seen pictures of mantis eating hummingbirds so it might be a good idea not to get tagged by the thing).

Blue Grosbeak – Catherine Hamilton

Although not NatGeo quality, we got a couple of record shots of the action. In a couple of pictures you can even see the nictitating membrane coming down over the birds eyes to protect itself whilst it makes its attacks. A pretty sensible course of action I would think! After knocking the mantis down and stunning or killing it, the grosbeak grabbed the mantis and then flew off to devour it somewhere away from prying eyes.

Blue Grosbeak – Catherine Hamilton

Pretty cool watching this bird that I usually associate with munching down on weed seed heads taking quite such an active role in getting itself a decent meal. It almost reminded me of a shrike the way it used its rather heavy, clublike bill to take on this somewhat formidable prey item.

Blue Grosbeak – Catherine Hamilton

The last shot was taken just before the bird flew off to have a late breakfast. A Blue Grosbeak in Connecticut is still pretty good in and of itself, but the battle royale with the Mantis was really what made the experience an exciting one. I hope you enjoyed the series of shots.

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4 responses

18 10 2012
AnnMPacheco

Whoa, so very cool that you captured this. Thanks for sharing I found you on the CT bird list.I wonder if the mantis was “yummy?”

19 10 2012
underclearskies

Thanks Ann, glad you liked the shots. I’m not sure it looked ‘yummy’ to me but I guess it’s a case of different strokes …

19 10 2012
Cynthia Ehlinger

Thanks for sharing.

19 10 2012
underclearskies

Thanks Cynthia – it was a shame the bird didn’t seem to hang around long enough to get the rest of the usual crew to see it later in the day.

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