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Bird Eating Spider

For More information on Australian Tarantulas, check out the Australian Tarantula Association.

The Bird Eating Spider is one of Australia's largest spiders belonging to the Trapdoor family. Trapdoor spiders include the Funnel-web, Mouse, Whistling/Bird Eating/Barking, and Curtain-web spiders; they are distinguished by the stocky body, long leg-like palps, and two knee-like lobes to which the fangs join (chelicerae) in front. Most live in burrows with or without trapdoors in the ground, but some live in trees. Trapdoor spiders have powerful chelicerae and four pale patches (the book-lungs) under the abdomen. The correct identification of Trapdoor spiders is often quite complicated.  

The Bird Eating Spider is more commonly known as the Australian Tarantula as well as the Barking Spider or Whistling Spider. The barking or whistling sound is a warning when the spider is disturbed and is made by rubbing their palps with their fangs. Selenocosmia crassipes is its Latin name, and it is closely related to the Barking Spiders of South America. This spider is truly a giant as its body reaches the length of 55mm. The male is slightly smaller and slimmer than the female but is still large and powerful. The body of the male grows up to 40mm. The colour of the spider is various shades of rusty brown.

It is considered a Tropical spider fairly widespread throughout Queensland and commonly found in Cairns, Tully, Brisbane and Northern and Central parts of Australia. They can be found as far south as Northern Victoria and in all states excluding Tasmania and possibly the ACT.  Selenocosmia crassipes is only one of the more than 40 species discovered in Australia and is actually quite limited in its range near Mackay.  It is also found in New Guinea. This is the common species of the Theraphosidae family found in Australia. There are at least 4 kinds of the species found here. These spiders live under logs or in burrows which are 3cm wide and 60cm deep, which they line with silk. Sometimes a loose web is made around the entrance.

Bird Eating Spiders kill their prey by pouncing on it and injecting venom. They eat insects, lizards, frogs occasionally, small birds and other spiders (particularly the Lycosa species). All food is captured in the area near their burrows. As they have no teeth, they rely on digestive juices to dissolve their food. This is quite amazing.

The Bird Eating Spider is a type of Trapdoor Spider and they breed similarly to the Trapdoor. The female lives up to 30 years. She spends most of her life in or close to the silk lined burrow. The male lives in a burrow too but leaves it when an adult for mating. The males do not die after mating and can actually survive to breed for two seasons before dying.

The female lays her eggs and sticks the egg sac in a special part of the burrow. The egg sac is 35mm by 30mm and oval in shape. It is thicker at the center and is very white. It's made of tough silk. The eggs are 2mm in diameter and are translucent. They are a rich yellow colour. The female lays 48 eggs.The female is a devoted mother and carries the egg sac until the young emerge and then cares for them until they leave the burrow. They are about 10mm long in the body when they leave. In late September to the end of October mating takes place and females are usually found with egg sacs in November to December.

They are not dangerous to humans but they can kill a dog within 30 minutes. They have fangs that grow up to 10mm in length with a diameter of 2.5mm at the base. These are great weapons. When provoked, they rear up and strike downwards. The penetration of such large fangs without venom (which is known to be very toxic) is dangerous in itself. These are powerful spiders.

The largest spider of this family has a body 60mm long and a leg span of 160mm and is almost the size of a man's hand.

Bird Eating Spiders are covered with velvety hairs and have small eyes in a clump on the front of their head. Their legs are covered in long hairs. They have claw tufts which enable them to run up smooth surfaces.

by Alyce

Information and pictures were taken from children's projects and where credited to that child does not claim to be original information. Where possible, permission to reproduce has been sought. Any infringement of copyright is purely unintentional.

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