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
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.
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