Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Jay preparing a slug caterpillar (Acharia horrida) dinner

Thanks to Ben Coulter and the other folks at BugGuide for the ID of this caterpillar, that I had photos of in the previous post, as Acharia horrida.  Slug caterpillars have worldwide distribution, mostly in the tropics.  The one Americans are most familiar with is the saddle-back caterpillar.  Most, maybe all, the caterpillars in this family have poisonous setae.  The photos online show the adult moth as a drab brown thing that non-Lepidopteran fans would not look at twice.

The brown jay in the photos below is no dummy - it knows to wipe all the setae off before enjoying dinner. It worked for almost 10 minutes on this one caterpillar before swallowing it, moving to several new branches to wipe the setae off.  I took a lot of photos.  :-)  The best are below, and some of them are almost a movie.  This particular brown jay is in its second year.  You can tell that because it has lost the eye-ring and has only touches of yellow left on its bill.  I also saw adults displaying this same behavior.  In the final shot you can just make out the remains of a gooey mess in its bill.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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10 comments:

  1. Um um um (ala John Besh), them slug caterpillars is gud eatin'

    Great photo series under difficult viewing conditions.

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  2. Thanks, anonymous (I know who you are, Dennis!). They must "gud eatin" to be worth all that effort.

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  3. Love the Beast verses Bug picture story.

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    1. Thanks, Ima. It was very entertaining to watch.

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  4. Replies
    1. Thanks. I've been enjoying your recent posts.

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  5. Pretty smart these birds.
    I often wonder how they first found out they were poisonous, and subsequently learnt how to deal with it. Hopefully for them it didn't take too long.

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    1. I was wondering the same thing. Do they learn it from their parents, or does each one have to figure it for themselves? They do seem to be a tight knit family group with parents and 2 years of young around. Plenty of time to learn.

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  6. hey...i thought "gud eatin" was the chef from "Minnesota Bound" with Ron and Raven. Rob Scheunun? Which everything he makes he claims is.

    I won't doubt that horrida is tasty.

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    1. We heard it somewhere in our former lives in Georgia. Best said with a southern accent. ;-)

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