Mustard Ghost Moth (Abantiades hyalinatus) adults are beautiful. The forewings vary from orange to 'mustard' colour, some with bright silver markings, while the hind wings are an impressive purple. And they're big, with a wingspan of at least 120mm. They appear in late summer, but never in large numbers.
It is perhaps not surprising that such fat-bodied insects attract the attention of a range of hungry predators. I witnessed one such encounter and was amazed by what I saw.
As I was wandering about the block, camera in hand, this Black-faced Monarch landed on a nearby perch. It sat quite still, watching me, and I was able to capture several shots. These beautiful summer visitors, are breeding migrants, arriving in Spring and flying north again in March.
Suddenly the Monarch started to gag and I was amazed to see the bird regurgitate a huge, intact Mustard Ghost Moth. And, more amazing still - the moth was clearly alive!
Now, I am aware that birds have a crop where they can store food before it passes on to the stomach. But I really didn't expect a bird this size to have a crop large enough to hold such a huge, living moth!
Holding the insect under one foot, the Monarch attacked the head and thorax with its curved, blue beak. After a brief battle, the insect stopped fluttering - the bird had clearly won.
However, the Monarch wasn't the ultimate victor. A Grey Shrike-thrush, a much larger bird, swooped in and stole the prize. Unfortunately, it happened too quickly for me, and I missed capturing a shot. The winner landed high in the canopy and proceeded to consume its meal.