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Praying Mantis killing passerines on mistnets.

Praying Mantis killing passerines in
In the Ebro delta, Tarragona, Spain, there has been an
autumn ringing campaign every year from 1992
onwards, mainly in the Canal Vell lagoon, and also
intermittently in other places like Buda island or Punta
de la Banya peninsula. As with other large-scale ringing
campaigns performed across Western Europe, where
1000s of birds are ringed every autumn, we experi-
enced some anecdotal losses of trapped passerines in
the mistnets. This can be caused by predation by, eg,
cats Felis catus or Water Rails Rallus aquaticus. How-
ever, as far as we know there are no published records
of Praying Mantis Mantis religiosa killing and eating
passerines of such weight as European Robin Erithacus
rubecula and European Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypo-
leuca, as we have experienced in several instances.
After a thorough check of the Zoological Record data-
base, the only previous cases reported on predation on
vertebrates refer to predation on hummingbirds in
North America (Conway 1992, Kesterson & Kesterson
1999, cf Walkup 2005), on Brown Honeyeater
Lichmera indistinca, Red-backed Fairy-wren Malurus
melanocephalus and Green Tree Frog Litoria caerulea
in Australia (Dale 2005), mice and small snakes in
Germany (Detzel 1998) and young or small lizards in
Spain (Jehle et al 1996, García et al 1998).
Up to now, we have encountered seven cases of pre-
dation of the mantis on several passerines trapped on
the lower shelves of the nets, which the mantis can
reach by walking from the closest vegetation touching
the net. These passerines included two European
Robins, one in the Banya peninsula and the other on
Buda island, two Pied Flycatchers on Buda, and single
individuals of Cetti’s Warbler Cettia cetti, Willow
Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus and European Reed
Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus also on Buda. The
modus operandi of the mantis seems to be to approach
the bird, which is always hanging downwards, and then
enter the cranial cavity via one of the eyes, feeding on
the brain tissues. Although we have not seen the direct
attack on the birds, we think that the mantis is most
probably attacking the birds when they are still alive,
rather than feeding on recently dead birds. We found
several instances of the mantis feeding on the head of
the bird, and on at least two occasions the mantis cut
the head when it finished, as was also described for a
case of predation on Brown Honeyeater (Dale 2005).
On the days when the attacks were noted, there were
not any other losses in the ringing session caused by
weather effects or by stress. In some cases the bird still
had fresh blood on the head, which indicated a very
recent attack and death. Mantises are bad flyers.
Therefore, probably different individuals preyed on the
birds, because some of them were taken and released at
several 100s of metres from the net where they were
found, and because all instances were noted in different
nets, situated many 100s of metres from each other.
It should be noted, too, that the mantises were
always females of heavy size, with very large ab-
domens, which may indicate they were producing
eggs. This could explain their unusual behaviour at this
325 Praying Mantis / Gewone Bidsprinkhaan Mantis religiosa predating Pied Flycatcher / Bonte Vliegenvanger
Ficedula hypoleuca trapped in mistnet, Ebro delta, Tarragona, Spain, 27 September 2005 (David Bigas)
[Dutch Birding 28: 237-238, 2006]
moment of the season, because in the previous ringing
campaigns performed during spring, in the same area,
this phenomenon was never noted. Moreover, all the
recorded cases occurred in the period 15 September-17
October, between 2001 and 2005, which could indi-
cate the phenology in which these mantises need extra
resources for egg production. Egg production in our
area occurs between August and late October (Fabio
Benzoni pers comm).
These cases confirm that Praying Mantis can predate
on birds of considerable weight relative to itself, pro-
vided that it finds the bird in the net, with no chance of
escape by flight.
We are in debt with Darlene Shepherd, who sent a
copy of a paper from Australia, and also with Núria
Guevara for improving our English, and Fabio Benzoni
for the comments on mantis egg-laying phenology. We
also thank the support of Francesc Vidal and the Parc
Natural del Delta de l’Ebre, and the field assistance of
Raimundo Tomàs and Javier Llambrich.
Conway, A E 1992. Praying mantis kills hummingbird. Chat 56
(2): 31-32.
Dale, S 2005. Praying mantis preying on vertebrates. Western
Austr Naturalist 24: 247-249.
Detzel, P 1998. Die Heuschrecken Baden-Württembergs.
García, J J, Gosa, A & Alcalde, J T 1998. Arthropods preying on
lizards of the genus Podarcis. Bol Asoc Herpetol Española 9:
Jehle, R A, Franz, A, Kapfer, M, Schramm, H & Tunner, H-G
1996. Lizards as prey of arthropods: Praying Mantis Mantis
religiosa (Linnaeus, 1758) feeds on juvenile Sand Lizard
Lacerta agilis Linnaeus, 1758 (Squamata: Sauria: Lacerti-
dae). Herpetozoa 9: 157-159.
Kesterson, O J & Kesterson, C A 1999. Praying mantis preys on
hummingbird. Bull Oklahoma Ornithol Soc 32 (4): 31-32.
Walkup, R L 2005. Praying Mantis makes meal of a hummer.
David Bigas, Parc Natural del Delta de l’Ebre, Plaça Vint de Maig 2, 43580 Deltebre, Spain (
Julia Piccardo, Parc Natural del Delta de l’Ebre, Plaça Vint de Maig 2, 43580 Deltebre, Spain (
José Luis Copete, Lepant 291, 1r 2a, 08223 Terrassa, Spain (
Praying Mantis killing passerines in mistnets
[Dutch Birding 28: 238, 2006]
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... Several species have been reported as possible predators of trapped birds and so should be taken into account by ringers. One of the most surprising such predators is the praying mantis Mantis religiosa -'mantis' hereafter -that has been observed on occasions to kill small passerines trapped in nets (Bigas et al. 2006). Here we describe a case in which a mantis, rather than kill a bird, ate some of its feathers. ...
... The mantis was a large female with an especially broad abdomen, indicating it was close to oviposition. The same features have been described by Bigas et al. 2006. The mantis was quickly removed from the bird; it moved away easily through the net and it was thus assumed that it had reached the bird by climbing up the net. ...
... Given the observed voracity, which is also commented on in the literature (e.g. Bigas et al. 2006), we strongly recommend capturing manties that fit this description found on the ground or in the surrounding vegetation at mist-netting sites. They should be released some hundreds of meters away and special attention should be paid in the following net-rounds to ensure that they do not return. ...
Full-text available
While ringing in October 2016 in Cap de Creus Natural Park (NE Iberia), a large female praying mantis Mantis religiosa attacked an Eurasian Robin Erithacus rubecula caught in one of the mist-nets, and ate some of its flight feathers and wing coverts. Although praying mantis attacks on trapped birds have previously been reported, in this case the attack was focused on the bird’s feathers. We suggest that a female mantis close to oviposition could want to consum keratin-like proteins in feathers to help subsequent silk production during egg-laying. We strongly recommend removing gravid mantises observed close to mist-nests to prevent attacks on trapped birds.
... For Europe, all reports are from mantid attacks on living birds captured in mist-nets in Spain. Bigas et al. (2006) reported seven predation events, and nine additional events were relayed by D. Bigas (pers. comm.) during a multi-year banding project. ...
... Mantids (Mantis religiosa) entered the mist-nets to attack and eat entangled birds (Fig. 3A). Bigas et al. (2006) stated that the mantids were always large and heavy-most likely gravid females. Five species of birds were attacked (Tables 1-2). ...
... In about two-thirds of the cases, the birds were bitten in the head, neck, or throat (e.g., Carignan 1988, Kesterson and Kesterson 1999, Bigas et al. 2006, Lorenz 2007. In several cases, a hole was chewed in the victim's head through which its brains were extracted (Morse 1922;Bigas et al. 2006;K. ...
Full-text available
We review 147 incidents of the capture of small birds by mantids (order Mantodea, family Mantidae). This has been documented in 13 different countries, on all continents except Antarctica. We found records of predation on birds by 12 mantid species (in the genera Coptopteryx, Hierodula, Mantis, Miomantis, Polyspilota, Sphodromantis, Stagmatoptera, Stagmomantis, and Tenodera). Small birds in the orders Apodiformes and Passeriformes, representing 24 identified species from 14 families (Acanthizidae, Acrocephalidae, Certhiidae, Estrildidae, Maluridae, Meliphagidae, Muscicapidae, Nectariniidae, Parulidae, Phylloscopidae, Scotocercidae, Trochilidae, Tyrannidae, and Vireonidae), were found as prey. Most reports (.70% of observed incidents) are from the USA, where mantids have often been seen capturing hummingbirds attracted to food sources in gardens, i.e., hummingbird feeders or hummingbird-pollinated plants. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) was the species most frequently reported to be captured by mantids. Captures were reported also from Canada, Central America, and South America. In Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe, we found 29 records of small passerine birds captured by mantids. Of the birds captured, 78% were killed and eaten by the mantids, 2% succeeded in escaping on their own, and 18% were freed by humans. In North America, native and non-native mantids were engaged in bird predation. Our compilation suggests that praying mantises frequently prey on hummingbirds in gardens in North America; therefore, we suggest caution in use of large-sized mantids, particularly non-native mantids, in gardens for insect pest control.
... It is, however, stated that large praying mantids have the ability to kill small birds like hummingbirds and brown creepers. Recently, passerine birds trapped in mist nets have also been reported as occasional prey for mantids (Copete 2006). A recent overview of mantid predation on birds suggests that this behavior may be frequent in mantids, having already been recorded for 12 large-sized mantid species (including the genus Hierodula) in 13 different countries world-wide, preying on over 24 species of birds, with a marked preference for hummingbirds attracted to artificial bird-feeders (Nyffeler et al. 2017). ...
Full-text available
Observations in unmanipulated, semi-natural conditions were made of a single individual of the praying mantid Hierodulatenuidentata , while hunting and capturing an unusual prey for this kind of insect, guppy fish, Poeciliareticulata . This repetitive fishing behavior, recorded daily, is reported here for the first time and discussed in relation to the adaptive behavioral plasticity of praying mantids. We speculate regarding learning from experience as a hunting strategy.
Full-text available
A Praying Mantis {Mantis religiosa) was observed to feed on a juvenile Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis).
Praying mantis preying on vertebrates
  • S Dale
Dale, S 2005. Praying mantis preying on vertebrates. Western Austr Naturalist 24: 247-249.
Die Heuschrecken Baden-Württembergs
  • P Detzel
Detzel, P 1998. Die Heuschrecken Baden-Württembergs. Stuttgart.
Praying mantis preys on hummingbird
  • O Kesterson
  • C Kesterson
Kesterson, O J & Kesterson, C A 1999. Praying mantis preys on hummingbird. Bull Oklahoma Ornithol Soc 32 (4): 31-32.
Praying Mantis makes meal of a hummer
  • R Walkup
Walkup, R L 2005. Praying Mantis makes meal of a hummer. Website: hummingbirds/mantis-hummer.aspx.