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A Hummingbird Entangled in a Spider's Web

Robert S. Woods
6 (November-December)
From Field and Study
Online Text

A Hummingbird Entangled in a Spider's Web

In accounts of tropical explorations we read of spiders’ webs capable of ensnaring small birds, but one hardly expects to happen upon anything of that sort right at home. Recently encountering an object hanging by two strands of a nearly demolished web, I did not at once recognize its nature, but closer inspection showed it to be a hummingbird, evidently a female or immature male Costa (Calypte costae), suspended head downward with folded wings. The bird looked dead, but when taken in hand it opened its bill and struggled feebly, so I undertook to remove the web, which was well wnapped around its wings. The strands were so tough and viscid that this was accomplished only with difficulty and, apparently, at some risk of pulling out the feathers. When released, the bird was too exhausted to fly, so it was placed inside a room. A few minutes later it was found clinging to the window screen, and when taken to the doorway it flew away with fully restored strength.

The web in question was that of our largest common orb weaver, a dull-colored, heavy-bodied, sluggish spider which spins a particularly coarse thread and often spans a space of ten feet or more. Doubtless a hummingbird in full flight would break through the web without harm, but if it should blunder into it while hovering, the beating of its wings might easily wrap about it a large portion of the web; and such is the strength of the fabric that it seems capable of holding a bird of considerably larger size. Evidently the rarity of such occurrences is due to the vigilance of the hummingbirds in avoiding the snares rather than to any lack of potential danger.

Robert S. Woods

Azusa, California, July 31, 1994

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