Image: Wikimedia Commons

If you have a bird-feeder at home, you might want to keep an eye out for praying mantises. It turns out they not only eat pesky insects and bugs, but they sometimes target birds too.

These bold-faced badasses linger near bird feeders and gardens, where they sit perfectly still and lay in wait for their unsuspecting victims. Grabbing the target with trademark speed and accuracy, the mantis will then chew through the skull to eat the bird’s brain — though sometimes they’ll go through the chest — all this while dangling from the feeder by its hind legs.

While such gruesome scenes are relatively rare (birds are the same size as most mantises and aren’t a major food source), this curious kind of predation still happens often enough that it’s caught the attention of researchers.

In fact, researchers from Louisiana State University’s Museum of Natural History documented 147 incidents of mantises preying on small birds, including hummingbirds, warblers, treecreepers, and finches. They found cases in 13 countries in every continent but Antarctica, where mantises don’t exist — though the majority of the reports came from the United States.

Praying mantises are fantastic hunters. Armed with a set of five eyes, they can swivel their heads 180 degrees to track prey as it moves through their surroundings. They’re also masters of camouflage, easily blending into plants as they wait in ambush.

Once they’ve identified a target, mantises use their lightning reflexes to grab and pin down the victim with their spiky front legs. Unfortunately, even the quickest hummingbirds often don’t stand a chance against this killer.

Luckily, the birds in this video did survive the encounter: