NAIROBI PARK DIARY

The lark kill

Praying mantis, efficient killers in their small insect world, are prey to a lark

In Summary

•The praying mantis is a large prey for a lark to catch

Lark and mantis
Lark and mantis
Image: GARETH JONES

It was late in the afternoon and the shadows began to form shapes across the road. I was driving slowly and stopping frequently to watch and listen. I continued driving as I watched many birds while driving, thinking about how often I had stopped to watch birds and had seen something totally unexpected.

Then suddenly I noticed a fluttering movement in the long grass near the edge of the road. I stopped and saw a rufous naped lark killing a praying mantis. Wow! What an unusual sight.

It appeared that this mantis in particular was a much more challenging catch than the lark was used to. The lark repeatedly grabbed the mantis and using a whiplash movement hit it onto a series of rocks.

This was obviously to stun and eventually immobilise it enough to kill it. After quite a few minutes, the lark eventually killed the praying mantis, and proceeded to swallow it as quickly as possible.

Proportionately the praying mantis is a large prey for a lark to catch, especially when considering the reputation of the praying mantis. It should be noted that praying mantis are also efficient killers of any prey within their small insect world. So it was actually a rare sighting to see a lark catching a praying mantis.

The rufous-naped lark is geographically very variable across most of East Africa, due to the inherent variability of the species. There are some 25 variations of lark sub-species. The rufous-naped lark (Mirafra africana) or rufous-naped bush lark is a widespread and conspicuous species of lark in the lightly wooded grasslands and open savannas.

So next time you are feeling a bit “stressed out”, take a slow drive through the park. Stop occasionally to be still and observe whatever might be happening. The cycles of the various species are always ongoing and very interesting. 

For more information link to the following website www.kws.go.ke