Giant spider eating a bird caught on camera
By Bonnie Malkin in Sydney
3:00PM BST 22 Oct 2008
Photographs of a giant spider eating a bird in an Australian garden have stunned wildlife experts.
The pictures show the spider with its long black legs wrapped around the body of a dead bird suspended in its web.
The startling images were reportedly taken in Atheron, close to Queensland's tropical north.
Despite their unlikely subject matter, the pictures appear to be real.
Joel Shakespeare, head spider keeper at the Australian Reptile Park, said the spider was a Golden Orb Weaver.
"Normally they prey on large insects… it's unusual to see one eating a bird," he told ninemsn.com.
Mr Shakepeare said he had seen Golden Orb Weaver spiders as big as a human hand but the northern species in tropical areas were known to grow larger.
Queensland Museum identified the bird as a native finch called the Chestnut-breasted Mannikin.
Mr Shakespeare told ninemsn the bird must have flown into the spider web and become stuck.
"It wouldn't eat the whole bird," he said.
"It uses its venom to break down the bird for eating and what it leaves is a food parcel," he said.
Greg Czechura from Queensland Museum said cases of the Golden Orb Weaver eating small birds were "well known but rare".
"It builds a very strong web," he said.
But he said the spider would not have attacked until the bird weakened.
The Golden Orb Weaver spins a strong web high in protein because it depends on it to capture large insects for food.