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.
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.
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.
The Collared Kingfishers have moved inland from the coastal areas and have adapted to a new diet that includes the Praying Mantis.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We wish to thank all our friends for their contribution and the use of their photos.