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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Need ID of Insect ASAP
Location: Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, Colorado
July 1, 2014 12:54 pm
Hello! I’m a professional photojournalist. I recently photographed an owl eating an insect I have not been able to identify. I’d greatly appreciate your help in determining the identity of this interesting bug. See the attached image. The location was Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Colorado, and the date was June 21. Thanks in advance for your help!
Signature: Jenny E. Ross

Owl Eats Orthopteran

Owl Eats Ensiferan

Dear Jenny,
Do you know what species of owl this is? We believe the insect is an Orthopteran, and we will search BugGuide to try to determine its identity.
  We have also cropped, enhanced and sharpened an enlargement of just the Orthopteran which resulted in a degradation of image quality, so we would prefer a higher resolution of the closeup as we have cropped it to assist in the identification.  It appears to have the long antennae of the suborder Ensifera.

Camel Cricket in the clutches of a Burrowing Owl

Camel Cricket in the clutches of a Burrowing Owl

Dear Daniel,
The owl is an adult female western burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea). I have attached another cropped version of the same photograph per your instructions, as well as several additional cropped photographs of the same insect being held in different positions by the owl. I’m unsure how large you need me to make the image files, so if these aren’t large enough just let me know. (My original raw files are quite large, but – having just returned from my trip – I haven’t post-processed them yet. To save time I made these files for you directly from the unprocessed jpegs I shot simultaneously with the raw files.)
Thanks very much for your help!
Jenny

Camel Cricket and Burrowing Owl

Camel Cricket and Burrowing Owl

Hi again Jenny,
These new images are very helpful.  We thought at first in the original image this might be a Mormon Cricket, but that is not correct.  We believe it is a Camel Cricket, perhaps in the subfamily Ceuthophilinae.  Some likely candidates are New Mexico Camel Cricket,
Styracosceles neomexicanus, which is pictured on BugGuide, or some member of the genus  Ceuthophilus, which is also well represented on BugGuide.  We will try to contact Katydid expert Piotr Naskrecki as well as Eric Eaton to get their input.
P.S.  We got an autoreply that Piotr is in Mozambique through the end of July and we will most likely not be getting a response from him soon.

Burrowing Owl eats Camel Cricket

Burrowing Owl eats Camel Cricket

Hi Daniel,
I really appreciate your efforts on this.
In case you’re not familiar with the size of an adult female burrowing owl to use for scale, this insect was quite large. I believe it was at least 3 inches long. (The apparent size in some of the photographs is a bit deceptive, because the bug was being crushed by the owl.) I will contact the owl experts I’m working with to see if they can narrow down the size estimate based on my photos and their detailed knowledge of burrowing owl proportions. The insect’s body was very robust. Overall, it did not present the much more delicate, leggy, spider-like appearance of a typical camel cricket. Also FYI, this owl and her mate caught several of these insects over a period of a few days (unfortunately, the other captures were too far away to photograph), and all of the bugs were the same large size and very red like this one.
My best,
Jenny

Thanks Jenny,
We are going to await a response from Piotr or Eric Eaton.  We are going to stand by the Camel Cricket as the closest ID for the moment.  We do not believe this is a Shieldback Katydid, which was our first guess.

Hi Daniel,
To help us with the insect ID, last night my scientific colleagues kindly took a moment to get a couple of measurements of two adult female burrowing owls while they were in the field attaching transmitters to them. (The two owls were measured by two different people in separate locations.) The measurements appear to confirm my estimate that the insect was at least 3 inches long:
·         Straight-line distance from the front edge of the cere to the tip on the upper beak:  first owl was 13.59 mm, and second owl was 13 mm
·         The distance between the center of the pupils in the left and right eyes: first owl was 25 mm, and second owl was 27 mm
I hope this is useful information.
Jenny

Update:  August 18, 2014
Hi Daniel,
To help us with the insect ID, last night my scientific colleagues kindly took a moment to get a couple of measurements of two adult female burrowing owls while they were in the field attaching transmitters to them. (The two owls were measured by two different people in separate locations.) The measurements appear to confirm my estimate that the insect was at least 3 inches long:
·         Straight-line distance from the front edge of the cere to the tip on the upper beak:  first owl was 13.59 mm, and second owl was 13 mm
·         The distance between the center of the pupils in the left and right eyes: first owl was 25 mm, and second owl was 27 mm
I hope this is useful information.
Jenny

Piotr Naskrecki confirms Camel Cricket Identification
Hi Daniel,
Piotr and I have just been corresponding about the ID. He indicated that it is likely a subadult male of Daihinia brevipes, the Great Plains Camel Cricket. However, in light of this insect’s very large size and red color, he said, “There is also always a possibility that this is an undescribed species – North American camel crickets are surprisingly poorly known.”
Cheers,
Jenny

 

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Butterfly Survivors
Location: Coryell County, Texas
February 18, 2014 4:38 pm
I’m sending photos of what I think are a Variegated Fritillary and an Alfalfa Sulphur, each with damaged wings. I’m also sending a photo of The Usual Suspect.
Signature: Ellen

Sulphur with damaged wings

Sulphur with damaged wings

Hi Ellen,
Just last night we were reading the beginning of a small publication put out by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County called Butterfly Gardening in Southern California.  The first article is entitled Butterflies in Living Color and in it Brian V. Brown writes:  “The intricate patterns [of butterfly wings] have often evolved through their interactions with another group of animals with good color vision, the birds, which are the most relentless natural enemies of butterflies.”
  We also learned a new term.  Holometabola is a term used to classify insects with complete or four part metamorphosis with the stages being egg, larva, pupa and imago.

Mockingbird

Mockingbird

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Any clue what this is?
Location: Southeast USA
December 22, 2013 4:19 pm
Hello,
I came across this while clearing dead leaves from a flowerbed near my house. It was just sitting on top of the mulch and at first I thought it was some sort of animal feces, but upon closer inspection, I noticed a smaller, nearly identical version laying next to it. I have no idea what this is or if its even a “bug.” I’ve searched online extensively, but to no avail. Any help with identifying this “thing” will be greatly appreciated.
Signature: Anonymous

Evicera perhaps

viscus perhaps

Dear Anonymous,
We do not believe these objects have any relation to insects or other bugs.  They remind us of viscera.  Perhaps a hawk or other predator eviscerated its prey near your flowerbed.  Years ago when we would feed the birds and large flocks of Mourning Doves would come to the yard to feed, we realized that we had created a smorgasbord for the Cooper’s Hawks that feed on birds.  Hawks would catch the doves and eviscerate them from the branches of a large carob tree and we frequently found viscera laying on top of the soil.  What’s in John’s Freezer has a photo of an eviscerated chicken to illustrate our opinion.

Viscera we believe

Viscera we believe

 

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

September 7, 2012
Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California

Gentle Readers,

I spoke of this wildly imagined theory to Julian this evening and I want to spread the word to you cat owners.

This morning, as the sky was dark and moonless and the stars abounded, around 5:30 AM, I took out the compost pile from the kitchen and heard a cat in the treehouse.  I heard a cat, but it wasn’t quite like a cat.  It sounded vaguely birdlike, but definitely like a cat.  I sat in the Adirondack chair in my robe and listened over the course of several minuets.  During that time, the sound of the cat slowly evolved into a more birdlike raptor sound.  Eventually as the call came to sound like a lone owl, a large bird flew off into the lightening sky, neatly silhouetted and bigger than a raven.  I believe the bird was a Great Horned OWL.

Several weeks ago when my mother was visiting, we heard a pair of owls calling from the large pine over the roof.  When I went out, I also heard a cat mewling on the ground, but I couldn’t see it.  One owl flew into another tree and they had the forlorn cat between them.  Later the owls were in the neighboring ash tree with the tree house where I heard the lone cat cry this morning.  Below was the now pathetic meow of a harried cat.
 
I believe that owls have adapted to attack cats at night by attracting them through imitation.

Julian, upon hearing this, reported that he read that in an owl vomitorium, where pellets are deposited, there was a pile of cat collars.  Julian did not say if that pile was in Mount Washington.

Domestic Shorthair on London Roads quilt

First, better classify your conjecture as a hypothesis rather than a theory–the latter being based on a set of facts, the former a supposition of a possible outcome.

Although I couldn’t find a specific documented instance of Great Horned Owls killing domestic cats, there are plenty of mentions of the possibility of owls killing small cats–but I could not find anyone who spoke from personal experience or observation (and I don’t want to spend more time searching on Daniel’s behalf).

There is a documented instance of an owl attacking a 4-pound Chihuahua (who escaped) at:
http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/01/19/illinois.dog.attacked/index.html?hpt=C2

And, Daniel, you should check out the owl sound recordings at:
http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/great_horned_owl/sounds
to see if any of them sound like what you heard.

An alternative hypothesis is that you really heard an actual cat and an actual owl, and saw one or more owls depart the scene and did not see the cat. The fact that you didn’t see a cat doesn’t mean that a cat was not present (Schrodinger, anyone??).

If we want to investigate this further, I suggest that we look for owl roosts and search the ground underneath for owl pellets and remains that might belong to cats, including cat collars (no, I couldn’t find the original source for that tale, and it wasn’t on Mt. Washington anyway).

Be safe out there,
Julian

Thanks Julian,
During the first instance several weeks ago with two owls, there was definitely a cat involved.  The morning call from Friday morning was definitely the call of a bird that sounded like a cat and eventually evolved into sounding like an owl.  I did see the owl fly away and the call stopped.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

LA Times article on Leo Politi Elementary’s inner-city nature/science program
April 16, 2012
It’s not every day an inner-city public school is featured worldwide on the front page of the LA Times for a ‘best practice,’ so I want to seize the moment and share our good news with you.  Here’s the article:
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-bird-school-20120416,0,1384226.story
I hope you enjoy it and will ‘pass it on’ to any and all who might share a passion for the work.  I also encourage you to visit the Los Angeles Audubon Society for more information on their work.  Explore the ‘Education’ link to see the actual work of our school’s science illustrators:
http://losangelesaudubon.org/
Brad Rumble
Los Angeles

Thanks for the tip Brad.  Our LA Times is still on the front porch.  We still prefer reading our local news on the train to work as opposed to on the computer since we do so many other tasks on the computer.

Update:  Hi again Paul,
We read the article on the train.  We didn’t realize that you were the principal at Leo Politi.  Congratulations on a job well done and the well deserved press coverage on the amazing improvement in the science competency at your school.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Prey of the Praying Mantis
Location: Biggsville, Il.
October 9, 2011 7:07 am
I was going to post this to your general comment site but there wasn’t any place for a picture. I took this Tues. Oct. 4th. I assume this was the last Hummingbird in the garden. I have had quite a few Praying Mantises in the garden this year and many butterflies fell prey to them but when I saw this Hummingbird in it’s grasp I was truly amazed. I’d heard stories but only thought they were campfire stories much like a Hummingbird flying south on a gooses back.
Signature: Randy Anderson

Preying Mantis eats Ruby Throated Hummingbird

Dear Randy,
We are truly honored that you have submitted your amazing Food Chain images to our website.  We would strongly urge you to post a comment to our posting in the event that anyone out there in cyberspace is interested in using your images for some purpose in the future.  We cannot stop internet piracy and we realize there are many folks with questionable ethics that might try to steal your images.  As least we do not post the high resolution images and people are only able to easily grab the thumbnails.  While we are certain that your photos may horrify some of our sensitive readers because Hummingbirds are so beloved, they also represent the possibilities that occur in nature.  Perhaps the Hummingbird was old or feeble.  A large female Preying Mantis is a formidable hunter and her raptorial front legs have a strong grasp.  We also have an image buried in our archives of a Golden Orbweaver that captured and fed upon a Hummingbird.  Thanks again for allowing us to share your images with our readership.

Preying Mantis eats Ruby Throated Hummingbird

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination