A Common Sandpiper Coming Face-to-Face with A Wasp

“According to Wikipedia, the Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) forages by sight on the ground or in shallow water, picking up small food items such as insects, crustaceans and other invertebretes; it may even catch insects in flight.

“No, don’t have the luck to observe a Common Sandpiper catching insects in flights yet. But, here is a series of pictures showing one with an insect prey – a wasp, which it picked up from the sloping rocky surface at the bank of a reservoir.

“As was the usual case, this sandpiper was seen moving along the edge of the water as it foraged for food. It must have seen the wasp perching on the rocky surface as it was bold and moved nearer towards me – to a close distance of about 5 metres. Surprisingly, it slowed to a halt as it approached within striking distance of the wasp. For a moment, it just stood there staring at its prey (1st row, left). Both bird and prey seemed frozen for that brief moment as they came face-to-face with each other (1st row, right). There was hardly any commotion as the wasp ended up in the bill of the sandpiper after it briefly disappeared behind a bulge on the rocky surface (2nd row, left). Almost immediately, the sandpiper turned around to move away with the prey firmly held in its bill. Was it afraid of me stealing its food? Or could it be looking for some privacy to tackle and consume its prey?

“After moving some distance away, it dealt with the prey. There was no bashing. The wasp was dropped on the hard surface (2nd row, right). With a slight twist of its head, the bird used its bill to twist the prey about. In one such moment, the wasp’s abdomen (indicated by a red arrow) became detached as it flew up before dropping down (3rd and 4th rows). The sandpiper was successful to have some privacy as it turned its back towards me before consuming the wasp. Later, the detached abdomen was also picked up and similarly consumed. After its meal, the sandpiper reached for the water and proceeded to drink before continuing to forage into the distance.”

Kwong Wai Chong
Singapore
28th March 2012

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