Jan 30, 2011

David vs Goliath: The caterpillar vs the bird

huge caterpillar

I watched a most exciting fight live yesterday. The apparent underdog put up a tough fight, despite being outnumbered.

It began when I saw what I thought was a green stick under a tree. It was as fat as my index finger and about two and a half inches long. (that's longer than my index finger)

A bird swooped down next to it and pecked at it. The stick moved!

Then I moved - two feet away.

I pointed it out to Hubs - a worm, I said!(ok, I stand corrected, caterpillar).
He said : "That's not a worm la, it must be part of the tree."

(Pause here to :p :p and gloat)

"It MOVED," I insist. But thinking I imagined it all, I sat down on my picnic mat and forgot about it for a while.

But the birds didn't. They came back, tempted by the big, fat, juicy morsel that lay so invitingly on the open ground.

noisy miner prey caterpillar

Sometimes a lone bird, sometimes two, would surround it, trying to discover the best route to their meal. 'Hop as near as possible, lock on to its position and have a stab!' seemed to be the formula.

bird stalks caterpillar

But the caterpillar didn't want to be the 'special of the day'. When attacked, it wound itself as tightly as possible and recoiled, the spring action effectively a blow to the head of the bird. Its immense mass added to the power of this punch.

bird attacks caterpillar

One bird had minor success flying it off but only got two feet away before the caterpillar was dropped.

bird bites caterpillar

I thought the caterpillar was lucky to survive the first attempt, and never thought he'd make it past a second. But despite about 6 attempts in two hours, the caterpillar was none the worse for wear. I know this because after each round, he continued inching his way back to the tree at a healthy pace. In the end, the birds learned to leave it alone. Besides, as Hubs said, they would have choked on him, so fat was he.

The victor

Hubs found a little spot for him in the shade of a sapling. He was still there when we left, presumably to fight, or take flight, another day.

Results : Caterpillar, 6, birds 0.

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