Praying Mantis Catches Hummingbird Picture

I’ve heard of birds eating spiders and spiders eating birds–but who knew that praying mantises can catch hummingbirds!

The photo here proves mantises can turn the tables on birds. It was submitted to National Geographic Magazine’s “Your Shot” feature and was picked as one of the “Daily Dozen” images featured on September 2.

Photo by Sharon Fullingim, published on National Geographic Your Shot

“Like many bird watchers in our area, we keep hummingbird feeders filled in our front yard, from April until October,” says Sharon Fullingim, who submitted the photo to “Your Shot.” “Black chinned, broad tailed, rufous, and calliope hummingbirds visit them, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I was greeted with this shot this week. I’ve seen the mantis hanging around the feeders before, but didn’t quite believe it would ever ‘score’ lunch!”

praying mantis fast facts.jpg

National Geographic colleague Marilyn Terrell submitted the photo and caption to Neatorama, a popular blog that shares neat stories. From there the hummingbird-catching mantis quickly found its way to the social media site Digg.

Now the photo of the mantis catching the hummingbird has become a Web phenomenon, much like another “Your Shot” photograph, featuring the squirrel crashing a couple’s photograph in Banff.

This is not the first time a mantis snaring a hummingbird has been documented. Bird Watcher’s Digest published photos of a praying mantis catching a hummingbird earlier this year.

A quick perusal of YouTube finds that mantises are accomplished hunters of a range of species, including mice.

The National Geographic profile of the praying mantis describes the insect as a formidable predator. “They have triangular heads poised on a long ‘neck,’ or elongated thorax. Mantids can turn their heads 180 degrees to scan their surroundings with two large compound eyes and three other simple eyes located between them.

“Typically green or brown and well camouflaged on the plants among which they live, mantis lie in ambush or patiently stalk their quarry. They use their front legs to snare their prey with reflexes so quick that they are difficult to see with the naked eye. Their legs are further equipped with spikes for snaring prey and pinning it in place,” says the Nat Geo profile. You can read more on the praying mantis page.

On the other hand, hummingbirds are tiny birds, smaller, and presumably lighter, than some insects.

Mantises are cool insects and I have enjoyed watching a number of them in my yard. But I’m relieved that they are not of a size large enough to prey on humans, say about as large as this one downstairs, in the courtyard of  National Geographic headquarters:


Photo of praying mantis scultpture by David Braun

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • Sully

    Has that picture been very carefully vetted. I’m no hummingbird or mantis expert; but hummers must be able to generate pretty substantial thrust when on the wing as one would be at a feeder. It would be one thing for a mantis to catch one on the ground or on a branch and encumber its wings; but if it nabbed one already in flight it just feels like the startle reaction force generated by hummer might well be greater than the tensile strength of the mantis’s legs.
    I have to suspect you’ve been duped either with photoshop or else with a superglued up montage.

  • Broken Waves

    Sorry that you feel the world has been ‘duped’ or ‘superglued’ by this photograph. Now it is understandable with today’s technology that pictures can be doctored but this is as real as real can get. Read the article and you can see other documented cases of Mantis vs Hummingbird with pictures. Mother Nature continues to surprise us with unbelievable situations like this.
    It looks like you have been duped by a real photograph.

  • jebrom

    This picture is as real as real can be. Mother Nature is capable of anything, and any one the questions Her should well, I am grateful for her gifts and this opportunity to see it….Wow. The photographer and owner of this picture, if they knew Sharon knows she would ever doctor or dupe anything. The notion is ridiculous. To know her is an honor.

  • alwayserin

    Sharon doesn’t have to lie Sully. Take it back! You should check out her web sites. I dare you then to doubt the authenticity of the photo or Sharon.

  • bev

    I am Sharon’s mother. She sent our genealogy site the picture the morning she took it and someone made a blog of it.
    She was advised to see if a major magazine would be interested and NatGeo was.
    We immediately removed it from our sites, and advised Sharon to be certain she had proof, which she did.
    Now you, Sully, in your total and complete ignorance “sully” her reputation. I was so upset the minute I read your words, I thought I was going to have a stroke. Now I am calm and you are just an ignorant person, still.

  • Sully

    For what it’s worth I had no intention of upsetting anybody. I was asking National Geographic a straightforward question since the other hummingbird caught by praying mantis pictures (of which there are few) were also not especially persuasive. Also I did not find any demonstrably scientific websites that talked of hummingbird on the wing capture by mantises.

  • jester

    Wow, Sully you’re an idiot!

  • Husker

    On the other hand, hummingbirds are tiny birds, smaller, and presumably lighter, than some insects.

  • Paula Guttilla

    I have seen very large Praying Mantises lurking in butterfly bushes laying in wait for hummers and butterflies.

  • Meghann Just

    My husband told me about this when he saw this in a National Geographic…and I didnt believe him so I had to look it for myself! Oh my word!!!! That is just crazy…who would have guessed they could do that!?

  • nelly

    two words… WOW!!!!!!!!!!

  • erik flores

    if thats fake or real that is amazing

  • Jason

    this picture doesn’t surprise me. i once watched a 2-3 inch mantis successfully fend off an attack from a cardinal for a good 30 seconds at least before i had to stop watching.

  • Greg

    I’ve seen it with my own eyes. So has my son. I have a picture of it on my old phone. Couldn’t believe it at first, until I witnessed it happening. I sometimes see the big mantis hunting the hibiscus for hummingbirds. Scary. Amazing.

  • Tracy

    I have been observing Humming birds for 30+ years. I also have Praying Mantis in my yard. Today I heard a chirping distress, went over to the small tree to see, thought a bird was caught in a spider web, then saw the Mantis holding onto the Allen’s Humming Bird. I pulled them apart, and the Humming bird flew away. The Mantis was the size of my pointer finger I moved it to a different location. Took a look at different online sites. This was something I new nothing about, and it is real.

  • Jim rapalje

    I realize these comments were years ago, but they are absolutely true. My wife took a battery of ongoing shots of a mantis devouring a hummingbird in her feeder today, in the window. The shots are amazing and SCARY ! Probably have bad dreams tonight.

  • Mary Haynes

    I found a praying mantis eating a young hummingbird on my feeder 2 days ago. I was more concerned about trying to save it to take a picture, but it was too late. It had eaten its heart and surrounding tissues right out of its back. I flicked it off the feeder. I had noticed a mantis in a bush by the feeder the day before, and a hummer that flew to the feeder just hovered, stared at the mantis and the left without feeding. I knew it must be afraid of it, but had no idea the mantis would eat one.

  • Heather Bradshaw

    A few years ago, before I knew Praying Mantis did this, I found a dying one on our porch. It was sticky. While I tried to clean it, I thought the only sticky thing on our porch is the Hummingbird feeder. I looked up the connection on the internet and was very surprised to read they kill Hummingbirds.

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