If you go down to the woods enough, you are sure of some surprises. Birds typically eat spiders, but there are cases when the tables are turned, especially in the case of our lovely - and very large - Golden orb-weaving spider; Nephila pilipes.
Here is a Yellow-browed warbler bird already partly eaten by a large spider. Photo credit to Andrew Hardacre, (ta very much).
I have seen other photos of birds caught in webs, typically the very small Japanese White Eyes. Most birds bounce off the webs, or fly straight through them, but there is a direct correlation between size and weight of the bird, as to whether they can be entangled, and this appears to be around 10g in weight for Hong Kong.
Not much is known about this type of predation, and a paper published in Avian Research sheds some more light on this, with the abstract shared (under license) here:
ABSTRACT: by Bruno Walther.
A recent global review of birds caught in spider webs reported only three Asian cases. Given this surprisingly low number, I made a concerted effort to obtain additional Asian cases from the literature, the internet, and field workers. I present a total of 56 Asian cases which pertain to 33 bird species. As in the global dataset, mostly small bird species were caught in spider webs, with a mean body mass of 17.5 g and a mean wing chord length of 73.1 mm. Consequently, birds with a body mass >30 g were very rarely caught. This Asian review corroborates the global review that smaller birds are more likely to be caught and that Nephila spiders are most likely to be the predators. Continuous monitoring of spider webs is recommended to ascertain the frequency of these events.
link to article This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source.
I have also heard these fascinating - albeit somewhat scary - spiders called bat-eating spiders. And this photo - provided by Nicola Newbury, taken by David Newbury - shows that they also catch and eat bats.
The large webs are incredibly strong, especially the large yellow lines that seem to build ins strength over the late summer months, so it is now wonder that these webs are able to trap birds and mammals too. I have also seen a video of a small Hong Kong snake trapped in one of these webs as well, so lets add reptiles to that list! The links below take you to a couple more blogs i have written about these spiders.
links to more articles about this spider