Due to their size, hummingbirds have a number of predators, and one of the most unusual is probably the praying mantis. It’s hard to believe that an insect could catch and kill a bird, but they can. Praying mantises lie in wait for their prey so there are ways to prevent them from catching and killing hummingbirds.
Praying mantises are insects which look like large grasshoppers. They are known predators and carnivores and usually eat insects, spiders and even small lizards and mice. Given the size of a hummingbird, it shouldn’t be too surprising that a mantis will kill and eat them.
A praying mantis can grow to be up to 5 or 6 inches long so, given that hummingbirds are just a few centimeters in size, they make ideal prey. What’s so amazing is the speed of the mantis. Hummingbirds are extremely quick, and yet a praying mantis can catch and kill one in a flash.
How a praying mantis will catch a hummingbird
Praying mantises do not stalk their prey. Instead they can sit still for long periods of time and wait patiently for their prey to come within striking distance. They sit with their arms together, just as if they were praying, which is how they get their name.
Their green color means they are ideally camouflaged in and around the garden and hummingbirds don’t spot them until it is too late. The most common place that a mantis will catch a hummingbird is on the feeder.
The mantis will sit in the foliage close to the feeder and is often waiting for insects such as bees and wasps. If a hummingbird arrives to feed, then the mantis will take the opportunity to try to grab it. When it does, the mantis will catch it with its long forearms and then use the spikes on its arms and legs to hold the bird while it feeds. It has been known for a praying mantis to actually spear the hummingbird before it eats it.
The mantis may not consume all the bird which makes it all the more distressing if you find one that they have killed.
Thankfully, as it is only the larger praying mantises which are capable of catching a hummingbird this is not a common occurrence. You can, however, help to prevent it with careful placement of your feeder and by keeping a watch over your garden.
Here’s a video showing how deadly attacks can be.
Preventing a praying mantis attack
Even though these attacks are quite rare, if you live in an area where praying mantises live, you may want to take measures to protect the hummingbirds in your garden.
- The easiest thing to do is to make sure that your feeder is away from any trees or shrubs. As these are common hiding places for mantises, simply moving hummingbirds away from them can offer the protection they need.
- If you see a mantis on your feeder, or on the branch of a tree which you hang it from, then find a stick and carefully remove the mantis away from the feeder to another part of the garden.
- If you have the room, you can add a cover to the top of your feeder and this will deter the mantises from being able to reach the hummingbirds as they come to feed.
- Praying mantises are attracted to areas where there is likely to be a high population of insects, particularly bees and wasps. Make sure your feeder has bee guards and that all excess sugar is cleaned away to prevent bees from hanging around it.
Other predators to be aware of
Praying mantises are just one of the many creatures which prey on hummingbirds. By taking measures to prevent a praying mantis from catching a hummingbird, you could also be helping to protect them from other predators.
Some of the other predators you need to be aware of are:
- Larger birds such as shrikes and kestrels which can swoop down and catch the hummers.
- Spider webs in the garden can be dangerous if the bird gets caught in them, particularly if you live in an area with orb weaver spiders.
- Both hummingbirds and their eggs can be prey to snakes and lizards.
Although a praying mantis attack is not pleasant to watch, thankfully they are not the most common predator. If you keep your eyes on your garden and are aware of where and when the danger lies, you can help to keep these wonderful garden visitors safe.