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One morning last week, when I came out of my room, I was treated to a very interesting sight. A Coucal. The booming calls of the Coucals are often heard and the birds themselves are seen regularly in our garden. The bird came out of the bush and landed on a stone slab nearby. On close observation, I noticed something in its beak. It was a large juicy green caterpillar (probably of the Oleander Hawk Moth) in its mandibles! The caterpillar (or larva) was gulped down in no time. The whole drama happened so quickly that there no time to capture this event.

Tabernaemontana bush.

Tabernaemontana bush.

 

However, it reminded me of a similar event that had transpired many years ago – to be more precise February 2006! One afternoon I noticed some movement near the top of the same Tabernaemontana bush. I waited for a while and noticed movement again. This happened a few times. I could not contain my curiosity and ran into the house to get my binoculars. Gazing through them, I noticed a fat green caterpillar with an outward pointing stiff tail. Also, nearby was a Garden Lizard Calotes versicolor.

Garden Lizard and the larva of the Oleander Hawk Moth.

Garden Lizard and the larva of the Hawk Moth.

 

The lizard lunged at the caterpillar and barely managed to get a hold. But it had to let go since the caterpillar had a stronger grip of the twig! The lizard repeated this effort several times. Unable to get much purchase with its tiny teeth, with each effort it only managed to injure the caterpillar.

The Garden Lizard attacking the larva.

The Garden Lizard attacking the larva.

 

Until eventually the green gooey innards of the caterpillar was threatening to fall out.

Notice the green innards of the larva exposed.

Notice the green innards of the larva exposed.

 

 At this stage, the lizard decided to abort the effort and go away. This came as a surprise to me. The lizard had invested ample time and effort to maim the caterpillar. A little more and it would have been rewarded with a juicy morsel. I am not sure if it was the exposed innards of the caterpillar that forced the lizard to quit. Unfortunately, the caterpillar became neither meal nor moth!

This time around, since the drama went on for longer, I managed to get a couple of frames of another predator of the same caterpillar!

  • Deepa Mohan

    The lizard had not read the story of Bruce and the spider….riveting snippet!

  • Uma K

    Is it likely the green innards of the caterpillar were off-putting to the lizard in any way? Superb accounts and pics, as always!! Thanks!!

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      I really have no clue Uma. I am only guessing. I could not see anything else that would have changed the mind of the Calotes and that too after putting in so much effort.

  • Krishna Mohan

    Alkaloids in the body of the Oleander Hawk Moth must have caused the problems to Calotes. Coucal can happily eat and digest Oleander fruit without any issue. Nice capture.

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      That is definitely a plausible argument. The larva feeds on plants of Famiily Apocynaceae. Members of this family produce a milky latex which is not very palatable and in some cases could even be poisonous. Thanks Krishi.