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09 Jun, 2023
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Lark Kills Mantis

Lark Kills Mantis!- Article by Gareth Jones

Lark Kills Mantis In The Nairobi National Park

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 in the process of 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 immobilize 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)  is a widespread and conspicuous species of lark in the lightly wooded grasslands and open savannas. Males attract attention to themselves by their bold and repeated wing-fluttering displays from prominent perches, which is accompanied by a melodious and far-carrying whistled phrase. This rudimentary display has been proposed as the precursor to the wing-clapping displays of other bush lark species. They have consistently rufous outer wings and a short erectile crest, but the remaining plumage hues and markings are individually and geographically variable. It has a straight lower, and longish, curved upper mandible.

Larks have more elaborate calls than most birds and often extravagant songs given in display flight. These melodious sounds (to human ears), combined with a willingness to expand into anthropogenic habitats — as long as these are not too intensively managed — have ensured larks a prominent place in literature and music. It is interesting to note that some lark species that have such drab markings and yet have a beautiful song melody when they call out. The well-known saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” comes to my mind. Likewise, we humans are often quick to judge others by their external appearance, thankfully the word says that God does not look at the outward appearance but at the heart.

So next time you are feeling a bit “stressed out!!!”, take a slow drive through the park. Stopping occasionally to be still and observe whatever might be happening, the cycles of the various species are always ongoing and interesting. Sometimes a sighting of the drabbest looking species can very interesting and rewarding if you just be patient and let nature happen around you.

Lark Kills Mantis!- Article by Gareth Jones

Lark Kills Mantis
Gareth Jones – Nairobi Park Diary – A passionate writer & photographer
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