Tears for Food

red-tailed newtonia
Red-tailed newtonia

Tears for food

Tear-feeding moths and butterflies
     in Africa and Asia and South America
feed on large placid animals
     deer      antelope      crocodiles
which cannot readily
     brush them away

In Madagascar there are
     no such large animals
Birds can fly away
     but not when sleeping
The Madagascan moths
     can be seen on the necks
of sleeping magpie robins
     and red-tailed newtonia
the tip of their proboscis
     inserted under the bird’s eyelid
avidly supping for the sodium
     in the tears

As the birds have two eyelids
     both closed
instead of the soft
     straw-like mouthpart
found on tear-drinking moths elsewhere
     the Madagascan moth
has a harpoon-shaped proboscis
     with hooks and barbs
which it inserts and secures
     under the bird’s eyelids
without disturbing the bird

The Madagascan tear-drinkers
     all male
derive most of their nutrition
     from tears :
take from this observation
     what you will

John Lyons



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