Monthly Archives: June 2020

Didn’t Pray Enough!

By Seng Alvin with Alan OwYong.

Besides photos of birds in flight the next most desired photos are those with food in mouth. There is so much we can learn and help with their conservation from the different food and prey that they take.

I found several photos of birds feeding on Praying Mantis from my backyard at Pasir Ris Park. I was curious to find out a little more about the prey and the other species feed on it too.

I posted my photos of the Oriental Pied Hornbill and Yellow-vented Bulbul on the Bird Sightings FB page and invited fellow members to post theirs. I was pleasantly surprised with the response. A total of nine more species were added to my post.

Seng Alvin’s close up photo of the Oriental Pied Hornbill with a mantis praying and hanging on for its dear life.
Yellow-vented Bulbuls needing some proteins to supplement their fruit diet. Seng Alvin.

I dug up some facts on the Praying Mantis on the internet and found that it is one of the top predators in the insect kingdom. There are over 2,000 species in the world and they come in all colours. They needed this to blend in to the natural environment as they are mainly ambushed hunters. For example the green Praying Mantis will use the green foliage as camouflage and wait for insects, birds, frogs, snakes or lizards to come by before they snap their powerful forelegs out in split seconds to snatch their prey. There is a video of a Praying Mantis holding the mouth of a Changeable Lizard open and biting its lips off with its sharp teeth and strong jaws.

Menlolong” You can almost hear the praying mantis pleading for its life.

Looking at the list, many of the birds are generalist and opportunists. Not many are insectivorous. Their ability to pick out a well camouflaged praying mantis staying motionless on a leaf or tree trunk is nothing short of amazing. Maybe the larger size of the praying mantis helped. Once spotted, all the “praying” will not help. Arboreal foragers like the Greater Racket Drongo, Pied Triiler, Black-naped Oriole, Chestnut-breasted Malkoha and the Common Iora must have inherited the skill of hunting for this particular prey from their parents when they were young.

Insects like the Praying Mantis form a big part of the diet of this nationally near- threatened Chestnut-breasted Malkoha. Photo: Evelyn Lee.
Male Pied Triller showing off its catch. Photo: Hearn Robin.
A praying mantis playing dead hoping and praying that the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo will pass it up. Photo: Lee Chin Pong.
The Common Iora sensibly chose a smaller praying mantis for its meal. Photo: Ros Qian.
Seah Kok Meng’s “Lo Hei ” shot of a Oriental Pied Hornbill tossing a praying mantis. It was still “praying ” hard seconds before being swallowed.

The Collared Kingfishers have moved inland from the coastal areas and have adapted to a new diet that includes the Praying Mantis.

Collared Kingfishers have adapted to life away from the Mangroves. Photo: Norhafiani A. Majid
Victor Tan’s image of the darling Collared Kingfisher chick being fed with a juicy mantis meal.

Even birds like the Long-tailed Shrikes were not choosy when it comes to feeding their chicks. If there are no centipedes around, a praying mantis will do nicely.

Long-tailed Shrike’s favorite food for its young included centipedes but a change of taste was just as welcomed too. Photo: Norhafiani A. Majid.

This unlucky Praying Mantis was at the wrong place at the wrong time even though the Malaysian Night Heron’s preferred food are the earthworms and skinks.

This praying mantis must have dropped to the ground much to the delight of this Malaysian Night Heron. Photo: Hearn Robin

Most raptors besides the Oriental Honey Buzzards take fish, birds and mammals. The Black Baza is an exception as large insects like the Praying Mantis and grasshoppers form the bulk of their diet.

Herman Phua excellent capture of a Black Baza enjoying its favourite snack.

From the diversity of the species, it would seem that the Praying Mantis form a good part of the diet of these birds. Maybe except for seed eaters and those without the proper bills, we can assume that many birds will not pass up a meal of the “Kung Fu Killer” of the insect world.

Yellow-vented Bulbul would not passed up a praying mantis meal even though they are mainly frugivorous. Photo: Agnes Chua.

We wish to thank all our friends for their contribution and the use of their photos.