A scientist roaming the Amazon happened upon quite an extremely rare sight recently: a moth drinking a sleeping bird’s tears.
Herpetologist Leandro Moraes was in search of amphibians and reptiles along the Solimões River in Brazil when he came across the peculiar duo. The black-chinned antbird, snoozing away and seemingly unbothered, had one eye pried open while a fist-sized moth probed it with its long, straw-like proboscis.
Believe it or not, moths (and other insects, like butterflies) have long been known to drink tears from mammals and reptiles. The practice, known as lachryphagy, is thought to be a way to supplement their diet with sodium and protein. When weepy creatures aren’t available, they also seek out other areas with high salt content, like mud, urine, decaying flesh, sweat, and blood.
Tears have 200 times the protein of other secretions, so if insects are unable to get the proper amount of protein from their regular diet, they often turn to eyeballs.
However, this particular sighting is surprising because moths have rarely been documented drinking the tears of birds. In a report published by the Ecological Society of America, Moraes explained that there are only two other previous events on record.
Researchers say that it is highly unusual that a moth would seek out bird tears in this area in particular, as there is generally plenty of salty mud available during floods. They think the moth was likely in need of some protein.
The process doesn’t seem to annoy or injure the birds in any way, although some scientists wonder if it might lead to eye infections down the road.
Watch the creepy encounter in the video below: