Did you know that some of the biggest spiders in the world are referred to as birdeaters?
In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of interesting Goliath birdeater facts, some of the most fascinating, yet scary spiders in the world!
1. They are part of a tarantula family
If you think about large siders, then the name “tarantula” probably rings a bell. This isn’t the name of a certain species of spiders, though, but the collective name of a group of spider families.
Goliath birdeaters, known scientifically as “Theraphosa blondi,” are part of the family Theraphosidae. This spider family consists of over 1,000 different species of large and hairy spiders. Yes, there are a lot of tarantulas roaming around in the world!
The main reasons why tarantulas are so famous are because of their distinctive appearance and the fact that they are sometimes kept as exotic pets.
2. It’s the largest spider in the world by mass and body length
Some of the biggest siders in the world are part of the group referred to as tarantulas, and one of the most remarkable Goliath birdeater facts is that they are the biggest of them all!
They have a body length of about 13 centimeters (5.1 inches) on average, which makes them the largest spider in the world by body length. They are also the heaviest spiders in the world as they weigh 175 grams (6.2 oz) on average!
They aren’t the biggest spiders in the world by leg span, though. The giant huntsman spider, which is native to Laos in Southeast Asia, can have a leg span of over 30 centimeters (1 foot), which is just slightly longer than that of the Goliath birdeater.
3. The Goliath birdeater is native to South America
So where do goliath birdeaters live?
These huge spiders are native to the rainforest of the northern part of South America. Their range extends into multiple countries and more particularly the Amazon Rainforest in:
- French Guiana
- Northern Brazil
- Southern Venezuela
Their preferred habitat is a swampy or marshy area where they can easily crawl into holes or tunnels.
4. Do Goliath birdeaters really eat birds?
These are carnivorous spiders, which means they are predators and hunt various types of small animals. They don’t often feed on birds though even though that’s what their name implies.
The reason why they got this name was because of a drawing made by German biologist Maria Sibylla Merian in the early 18th century. She depicted this particular spider while it was eating a hummingbird.
In reality, their diet mainly consists of large arthropods, worms, rodents, various amphibians such as frogs, toads, lizards, and even snakes. This doesn’t mean, however, that birds are safe in case this giant spider is hungry!
5. They have a particular way of feeding themselves
If you were one of the animals described above, then you would definitely want to stay as far away from these predators as possible. When caught, they drag their prey back to their hole and start feeding themselves.
They do so by sucking out the inside of whatever unlucky creature they just caught. They first make it wet to make both the feeding and the digesting process easier.
Yes, for small animals, getting caught by a spider is one of the worst ways to go, that’s for sure!
6. They’re hairy but males lack a commons feature
If you’re arachnophobic, then one of the things that probably freaks you out about these scary siders is their hairs. Even though they appear to be hairs, they are actually referred to as “setae,” a bristle-like feature common in many tarantulas.
Most adult male tarantula spiders have a feature referred to as tibial spurs or hooks. Goliath birdeaters are one of the few species in which males lack this common feature which is usually located on the first pair of legs of the spider.
Apart from this, they come in a very distinctive color which makes them easily recognizable. It varies from light brown to a slightly darker shade of brown. This is the reason why they are referred to as “Theraphosa blondi” as well.
7. They have several defense mechanisms that can be harmful
The defense mechanism of these spiders can potentially be harmful to humans, but they aren’t nearly as dangerous as some of the other venomous spiders in the world. They basically have 3 ways to defend themselves:
- Rubbing their setae (hairs) against each other so they produce a particular sound. This process to scare off enemies is referred to as “stridulating.”
- They rub their hind legs against their abdomen to release additional hairs that cause irritation to the skin.
- They bite with their fangs which carry a bit of venom.
Their fangs are pretty large and can reach a length of anywhere between 2 and 4 centimeters (0.79 and 1.57 inches). The venom their fangs produce isn’t enough to cause serious trouble and can be compared with the sting of a wasp.
8. Males don’t live that long but don’t die a horrible death
Have you ever heard of sexual cannibalism? Well, many spiders indulge in this extremely weird behavior in which the female eats the male during or shortly after mating.
Redback spiders, for example, are one of the few species in which the male actually encourages this behavior. They literally ask to be eaten and die a horrible death because it somehow makes them excited.
Luckily for the male Goliath birdeaters, the females don’t eat them, what a relief!
These spiders mature at the age of 3 to 6 years and males die shortly after of natural causes. Females can go on to live anywhere between 15 to 25 years!
Females lay anywhere between 100 and 200 eggs which eventually hatch into small spiders 6 to 8 weeks after that.
9. You won’t see many of them roaming around during the day
Even though they live in the extremely humid rainforests of South America, these are 100% terrestrial animals. This means that they solely roam around on the ground and don’t go into the water.
They are also rare to spot because these are mostly nocturnal creatures, so you won’t see them in the daytime.
10. Can Goliath birdeaters be eaten?
One of the most intriguing Goliath birdeater facts is that the people living in the northern part of South America don’t see these creatures as scary spiders but rather as a tasty snack!
To prepare the spider, they first remove all the urticating hairs and then put the naked spider between banana leaves and roast it.
So how do goliath birdeaters taste?
The taste has been described as a rather moist version of a shrimp or prawn, which really doesn’t sound too bad after all, right?