On 23rd June 2006, photographer HP Lim came across a pair of Chestnut-bellied Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus sumatranus), each with a large hairy caterpillar between its beak. The birds were swinging the caterpillars vigorously, obviously to kill them. They next passed the entire length of the caterpillar back and forth between the beak to remove the stomach contents. The image above shows one of the bird with the somewhat flattened caterpillar between its beak.
The video clips that HP Lim managed to capture (1) and (2) show the above in a much more dramatic fashion. In case you are not able to connect properly to the videos, he has given alternate links in (3) and (4).
Caterpillars are a favourite food of many species of birds. The brightly coloured ones can be poisonous while those that are hairy can be tricky to manipulate. An earlier posting gives an account of how birds generally handle these caterpillars.
Another account describes the way a Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris) manipulated a large privet hawk moth’s caterpillar – in this case the caterpillar was clean shaven, no hairs!
We wish to thank HP Lim for generously sharing his image and videos and to Meng and Melinda Chan for introducing him to BESGroup’s blog.