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Spiders: Did a spider catch this bird in its web?

By Gary Bogue
Tuesday, August 31st, 2010 at 6:40 am in Birds, Life, Spiders.

Starling and spider webs. Photo by Gloria Crim, Crockett, CA.
starling web, gloria crim, crockett

I have enjoyed your column for a long time and now I need your expertise to answer a question that presented itself in my front yard in Crockett.  Actually it was my grandkids who brought this to my attention.  They asked me the question and I couldn’t come up with the answer … Grandmothers really don’t know EVERYTHING!

I have attached photos of a dead bird caught in a spider web in a tree outside my front fence. What kind of spider in our area can weave a web so strong that it will capture a good-sized bird and hold it til it dies? Scary scene … especially for the super-active imagination of two kids! Thank you in advance for your input.
Gloria Crim @ home in Crockett, Calif.

Starling and spider webs. Photo by Gloria Crim, Crockett, CA.
starling2 web, gloria crim, crockett

I think you and your grandkids are misinterpreting what you are seeing. Those delicate webs are strong, but NOT strong enough to catch and hold that bird (a starling) until it died.

What really happened, I think, is something killed the starling and left its body wedged in the little branches of that tree. Maybe a hawk caught it and was frightened away by something, so it dropped the bird.

As the bird carcass began to decompose, it started to smell and attracted flies. The flies, in turn, attracted little spiders which spun their webs around the bird carcass so they could catch the flies.

That’s how things work in nature. When something dies, the scavengers move in to feed on the remains (or to eat the flies that are attracted to the remains) … recycling the materials back into the food chain where they can be used to give life to other organisms.

This gives us grandparents a chance to to expound on what life is all about to the grandkids. Go for it, grandma! /Gary

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One Response to “Spiders: Did a spider catch this bird in its web?”

  1. Gloria Crim Says:

    Thanks Gary! Very interesting…and totally credible explanation. Mystery solved! And what a relief to know that there is no “Godzilla Spider” lurking in Crockett. Now I guess my grandkids will have to cease with their guided tours of “The Most Frightening Sight in Crockett”. Oh well, the Crockett kids all started school yesterday anyway; somehow I imagine homework just might get in the way. But, then again, a good lesson on the cycles of life could be woven into many a curricula, right? I’ll go to work on an “extra credit” course outline! Thanks again.

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