The Struggle for Survival

My pace was quick for a hot August morning, but the scene before me stopped me in my tracks as I rounded the curve in the path in front of the Sailboat Pond in Catch the Wind. It was a clash of two mighty predators, a classic battle for survival, which has played out over and over again since the beginning of time, or at least since animals have roamed the earth.

In front of me were a female northern cardinal and a Chinese mantid. The cardinal, the aggressor, was looking for a meal and teaching a valuable lesson to its young (two or three immature cardinals watched from a nearby shrub), and the mantid was hoping to survive the onslaught.

 

The mantid standing its ground against the female cardinal.
The mantid standing its ground against the female cardinal.

 

The mantis, like a miniature Kung Fu fighter, its forelegs at the ready and it wings spread to their fullest in an attempt to appear as large as possible, was not going to give in easily to the cardinal.

However, the formidable seed-cracking bill of the cardinal, and the bird’s larger size, were a force to be reckoned with. The cardinal had the edge. The bird and the mantis traded jabs and tussled about for some three minutes while I watched and snapped photos.

 

Shuffling for position.
Shuffling for position.

 

The stand-off.
The stand-off.

 

The cardinal pecked at the mantis repeatedly.
The cardinal pecked at the mantis repeatedly.

 

The mantis was not going down easily.
The mantis was not going down without a fight.

 

Finally, the mantis was on its back.
Finally, the mantis was on its back.

 

Mortally wounded, the mantis made an effort to get up for one last go.
Mortally wounded, the mantis made a valiant effort to get up for one last go.

 

But, it was too late.
But, it was too late.

 

Beaten, the mantis lay motionless on the ground.
Beaten, the mantis lay motionless on the ground.

 

Immediately following the above photo, the cardinal took flight with the mantis firmly clamped in its bill. The bird flew to the shrubs on the side of the path where its young had been watching the struggle.

3 responses to The Struggle for Survival

    • Greg Dodge
      Greg Dodge says:

      Cardinal beaks are built for cracking seeds, nuts and eating fruit. I think the encounter in the post was for the benefit of the young cardinals that were in the nearby shrubs. The young are fed mostly insects. With that said, there have been many times that I’ve witnessed a cardinal chasing down a moth, cicada, beetle or other insect, whether for young in the nest or for itself. I must admit, it does seem odd to see a seed eating bird go after insects, but many of them do. I think most birds, whether frugivore or granivore will take the protein provided by insects when it presents itself.

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