Did you know that spiders can eat birds? Before yesterday I thought only one kind of spider ate birds...the "bird eating" spider, which is a very large hunting spider in the tarantula family that I think lives in either Africa or South America. I'm not certain which, but yesterday I came to realize that if the spider is big enough and the bird is small enough, anything can happen. This realization came when I saw a hummingbird that appeared to be dead caught in the web of a big yellow garden spider located in a tree directly behind my house in another person's yard. By the way, I think this is the same big yellow spider that used to live in my banana trees but disappeared about a week ago.
Anyway, I was instantly saddened by the discovery because I really like hummingbirds...I just did a painting of one happily sipping nectar after all, but at the same time I was fascinated too. It's not very common to see such a thing around here and in all my years of nature observation I've never seen a bird caught in a spider's web! I mean this is the kind of stuff you expect to see on National Geographic right? I was just about to head into the house to grab my camera when all of a sudden the bird jerked. It wasn't dead!
The spider wasn't reacting at all. It was just sitting in the center of it's web as if it was waiting. I wondered at this point if the bird had been bitten yet and that was why the spider just sat there appearing to wait, or if the bird had been struggling too much and the spider was waiting for it to tire out before trying to bite it...I had no way of knowing. But the more I watched the more the bird began to struggle and started to cry out. At this point I couldn't stand it anymore and I had to try to rescue the bird. If it was alive, there was hope for it. Thankfully the neighbor was home and he turned out to be super nice. His name is Justin.
I quickly introduced myself explaining to him that my house was behind his, that he had a rather large spider in his back yard, and that the spider was going to eat a bird if we didn't act. I laughed at myself as I was spilling all this because the look on his face was one of sheer terror. I mean how would you react if some nutty hippie girl showed up on your doorstep and went on about giant spiders and little birds and imploring you to do something?
Anyway, he couldn't believe that there was a spider that big in his back yard and he was a little hesitant to go check it out...not sure if he wanted to see for himself or not, after all ignorance can be bliss. And what is it with guys and spiders? I've not come across too many men that think spiders are cool...they all run and go "eeeeeek"!
But Justin granted me access to his back yard. I had my camera with me and wanted to get a photo of the scene before turning to the rescue if that was still possible by this time. When we got close to the web to my relief I could see that the bird was still alive and the spider was exactly where it was before leaving my yard. Justin was in the background freaking out a little once he saw the size of the spider with a real bird in it's web. Who can blame him for doing the little heebie jeebie dance he was doing.
So I asked him if he would mind getting a broom so I could try to get the bird down. He ran into the house and came back out quickly with a broom, all the while exclaiming excitedly "Jeeeeesus that's a huge spider, OMG I can't believe the size of that spider, Ewwww what if we can't rescue the bird?, I've never seen anything like this." etc....
So I carefully looped part of the web that contained the bird around the broom handle and slowly pulled the bird away from the rest of the web...all the while the spider is just sitting there nonplussed. The bird struggled a little more but I finally got it down and lightly set it on the ground. It was really scared...poor little thing...and quite tangled up in sticky web. I had to very gently pull away webbing from it's beak, head, and finally it's wings. Once the bird was free it tried to fly but only fluttered a little at first. I thought maybe it wasn't able to fly and started to process what my next move was gonna be when all of a sudden the bird took off! HURRAY! It flew up into a different tree and out of sight. I could hear Justin in the background exclaiming happily...something about good deeds, etc...but I'm sure the spider saw it differently.
I thanked Justin for letting me intrude on him the way I did and made him promise that he wouldn't kill the spider since I thought it was our "pet" spider we'd been observing a while now. If Justin didn't think I was a nut before, that probably sealed the deal. Oh well. Thankfully he said not to worry because he had no intentions of ever going near it. I told him that if he ever decided he couldn't live with a giant spider in his back yard to let me know and I would happily re-locate it. I didn't tell the poor guy that the spider was a female and apt to make more of her kind soon. We'll just keep that little tidbit to ourselves. ;)
As for the bird I don't know if it lived or not, but I like to think that if it could fly it would be okay. At least I feel better now. I would have been terribly bummed had I not at least tried to do something. I know it's nature's way and all, but I'm a softy at heart and little hummingbirds shouldn't be spider food if you ask me.
The picture quality isn't great I know, and you can barely see the bird, but click on the image and look closely. The bird is located towards the bottom of the picture amongst the leaves. If the spider is 12 'o clock, the bird would be 6 'o clock. And is that an egg sac near the spider's leg?