Moon Moth Meal

Brown-hooded Kingfisher (Halcyon albiventris) with Lunar Moth (Argema mimosae)

The bird hide at Lake Panic in the Kruger National Park is a terrific spot that rarely fails to reward a patient birder with something of interest. In summer, the place could easily be called ‘Kingfisher Paradise’ because it is not unusual to see six species – Pied, Giant, Malachite, African Pygmy, Woodland and Brown-hooded – while peering out across the water and into the surrounding bush.

I had already seen four of these species, when I noticed a male Brown-hooded Kingfisher some distance away on the south bank. The sand banks here are ideal for nesting burrows, so I was not surprised when a female Brown-hooded Kingfisher flew in to perch alongside its presumed mate. After a minute or so, the male then flew off, to disappear from view around the back of the small island in front of the hide. But, within a moment or two, he returned to the perch, clasping what appeared to be a big leaf in his bill. This was passed quickly to the female and I could then see that it was a large Lunar Moth (Argema mimosae). Also known as the ‘Moon Moth’, this is arguably the most strikingly beautiful of the African moths, a large apple-green beauty with a pair of long trailing ‘tails’ or ‘racquets’ on the hind wings; the larvae feed on the foliage of Marula and Tamboti trees both of which are common around Lake Panic.

At any rate, the female kingfisher proceeded to bash the moth senseless, breaking off its glamorous wings, before swallowing the chubby body. This apparently delicious meal was undoubtedly a courtship offering by the male.

Kruger National Park, South Africa, November 2010

About Duncan Butchart

Duncan Butchart is interested in all aspects of the natural world, with a particular fascination for birds and their ecological relationships.
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2 Responses to Moon Moth Meal

  1. Bev Carstens says:

    Hello Duncan, Thank you for the beautiful image. I love watching birds at Lake Panic. I’ll certainly look out for things out of the ordinary in future, one could easily overlook seeing a moth like this when you’re not actually looking for moths. I would LOVE to see a Lunar moth. I actually logged onto this page to see if I could identify a moth I caught the other morning. No luck with the identification , but beautiful images……and then I found your page as well. A BONUS !!!!
    Were you recently at FLOCK IN THE BERG ? I saw you there. We had a super few days.

    • Duncan Butchart says:

      Hi Bev. Glad to know you like the blog. I have been a bit lazy in adding to it lately, perhaps due to our settling in to a new town and environment here in Hermanus (we had lived in Nelspruit for 20 years). I hope to do something on something local (maybe penguins) next. At any rate, I never made it to Flock in the Berg but glad to had a good time. Hope you see a Lunar Moth one day! All the best, Duncan

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