spider eats bird
© Les Martin
A huge spider devours a bird in Atherton, near Cairns.
These amazing images of a mammoth spider devouring a bird were taken in the backyard of an Atherton property, west of Cairns.

Amateur photographer and bird enthusiast Les Martin took the photos in his back yard last week and while he was amazed at the sight, he never imagined his pictures would be such a hit.

"I didn't realise there'd be so much excitement," he said yesterday.

Cairns.com.au has received more than 900,000 hits since posting Mr Martin's pictures at 11am on Thursday, and has fielded dozens of inquiries and comments from people amazed by the photos.

Initially, Mr Martin's identity was unknown but, after The Cairns Post yesterday appealed for the mystery photographer to come forward, his son-in-law phoned to tell us who took the pictures.

The 75-year-old revealed that it was his wife, Roslyn, 70, who first spotted the orb spider dining out on the bird, a chestnut-breasted manikin, caught in its web.

Mrs Martin saw the metre-wide web when she was checking on the caged cockatiels the couple keep in their yard in Loder St.

According to Mr Martin, by the time he arrived at the scene with his digital camera, the orb spider
spider eats bird 2
© Les Martin
was hoeing into its meal.

Joel Shakespeare, the head spider keeper at NSW's Australian Reptile Park, told ninemsn that the spider was a Golden Orb Weaver.

"Normally they prey on large insects, it's unusual to see one eating a bird," he said.

Mr Shakepeare told ninemsn he had seen golden orb weaver spiders as big as a human hand but the northern species in tropical areas were known to grow larger.

"It was an awful thing. The spider was just chewing into its head," said Mr Martin, who worked at The Cairns Post as a printer before retiring.

"The spider's head was going up and down, and it was gouging into him at the top of his beak. It was still wrapping it up.

And then the spider just left it. It was like it was too big or something."

Spider experts said the photographs showed the orb injecting venom into the stunned bird.

spider eats bird 3
© Les Martin
But Mr Martin maintained what he saw was a dead bird.

"It was still wrapping it up while it fed but, thankfully, the bird was dead."

The photographs became internet fodder after Mr Martin emailed them to one of his five children.

Canberra-based Scott Martin sent the images off to his friends, and the images then began circling worldwide.

The female orb spider reaches 30-50mm in size and can have a leg span of 200mm. The orb is found in gardens and rainforests from Cape York to Noosa.

Les Martin
© Les Martin
Worldwide interest: The photo Les Martin took of a bird-eating spider has become a favourite on the internet.
Queensland Museum's Greg Czechura is reported ninemsn as saying cases of the Golden Orb Weaver eating small birds were "well known but rare".

"It builds a very strong web," he told ninemsn.

But he said the spider would not have attacked until the bird weakened due to its struggle to free its wings.

"The more they struggle, the more tangled up and exhausted they get and they go into stress."

"If a spider gets a bird, it's a very lucky spider," Mr Czechura said.