Re: Bird eating spider?

Subject: Re: Bird eating spider?
From: "Lynne Kelly" <>
Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2008 14:35:14 +1100 (EST)
> They watch to see when I stop weeding and then they all pounce down onto a
> brand new clearing. The other day I had to turn a large bit of rubble over
> to get at couch grass roots and revealed a red back and 2 spherical egg
> sacks attached to the side of  half a house brick and what I took for a
> male red back: a very small pale version. The male blue wren was down
> taking away a largish black spider immediately. (all the red was covered
> by his beak.)

The small, pale version may have been a male - but the male is extremely
small - as in really, really tiny.

The more likely possibility is that it was another member of the Theridiid
family and so has the same shape as a red back. The American house spider,
or common house spider (Achaearanea spp.) is really common here around
houses. It has spread all over the world. It varies in colour, but usually
pale and about half the size of a red back. The messy cobwebs around
houses which people think are empty usually have one of these guys in the
corner during the day. They come out at night. Little stunners in their
markings and long elegant legs.

Achaearanea are great spiders to watch. They catch critters many times
their size, have lots of sex, produce egg sacs which they constantly move
around their webs and then hundreds of young hang around for weeks hunting
and feeding as a group with Mum. All out in the open. All easy to see. All
you have to do is ignore the housework and watch the spiders.

We have watched superb fairy wrens and red wattle birds go right along the
windows picking off all of my eight-legged mates. We have also watched the
superb fairy wrens systematically work their way right along a window and
glass door taking all the web for nesting. We have also seen willy
wagtails collecting the web - their nests are a huge proportion of silk.

For those who don't know my background - I was once an arachnophobe who
started studying spiders to overcome my fear. I overdid the cure. While on
the topic of spiders and birds, Damian and I have been accepted into the
Hattah Storylines project:

Damian is going to be working on a piece about the social birds (babblers,
apostle birds and white-winged choughs) and the way they target wolf
spider burrows. Those who know Damian's photography from the MELBOCA site
and elsewhere will know why he was selected! I am doing something about
how Hattah looks different from when I first went there and saw the birds
and mammals as gorgeous but lived in fear of the spiders and now it's the
spiders I find the most beautiful of all.

For my next natural history book and doctoral research, I am also looking
at the social birds. I think I'd better start a different topic for that.


Lynne Kelly

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