Australia’s Bird Eating Spider

Just before Christmas and at a time when I should have been spreading the festive goodwill, I presented you with a post called The Funnel Web Spider of Australia and Death.

It included two videos and a picture of Australia’s deadliest spider.

Since then many of us will have enjoyed eating our Christmas turkey, but we are not the only ones who enjoy eating the occasional bird. My apologies for the lame intro, I’m still recovering from New Year’s Eve, today’s post is about…

Australia’s Bird Eating Spider

bird spider

Its proper name is the Eastern tarantula and has the scientific name of Phlogius crassipes. It is Australia’s largest spider and can grow bigger than a man’s hand. It can make hissing and whistling sounds so it has also picked up the nicknames “barking spider” and “whistling spider”.

Its bite is venomous but it won’t kill a human, it would make you feel ill for a while though. This spider could kill a cat or dog and will often kill and eat rodents, frogs, and as the name suggests, the occasional bird. Like most spiders though, it’s much more likely to eat insects.

Fortunately for me and many other Australians, this spider is only found in North Queensland.

My thanks to Wikipedia for making me look clever stupid. As Neil Beni pointed out in the comments on December 31, 2018, they are also found in Northern Territory. I double checked with the Australian Reptile Park website, and they confirmed that this spider is found “in the warmer and more arid regions of Australia“.

My thanks to Neil for correcting me, and I retract my thanks to Wikipedia, who need to pull their socks up.

Enough waffle, let’s take a look at a few bird eating spiders.

It’s not often you hear a guy say about a Sheila “Has she got a pair of fangs on her or what?” Today you will though, assuming you watch the video below. The sound quality is not great, but it’s still one of the best videos on YouTube about the Australian bird eating spider and features the much missed Steve Irwin.

This is not an embeddable video though, so if you want to watch it you will need to go to YouTube to do that. Just click the link below or the image above…

There are hundreds of different species of tarantula and they are certainly not limited to Australia. I watched a few videos on YouTube about these giant spiders, including a very interesting one featuring Steve Backshall pulling a wild Goliath Bird Eating Spider out of a burrow in the Amazon.

Guess what? The spider appeared irritated at first and then seemed to calm down before eventually exploring the guys hands and arms. Nobody got bitten.

That made me wonder, are spiders as bad as all that? Maybe they just want to be friends? Let’s face it, it’s not their fault they look so ugly, perhaps we shouldn’t give them such a hard time?

I have to make it clear here, I am in no way scared of spiders, but I still wouldn’t want to handle one. Not sure why, I’ve seen a friend of mine pick up a Huntsman spider and gently take it outside. Me, I have to scoop it into a container.

Now I know many people are really scared of spiders and that is a big concern for them as they consider a possible move to Australia. What would my advice be?

  • Don’t let the thought of spiders spoil a potential move to Australia.
  • Depending where you live, and let’s assume you live close to a city or in the city, away from the bush and in a relatively modern home, then you will probably see very few spiders.
  • Those that do get into your home will be dead within 24 hours or less if you have pest control.
  • More importantly, pest control deters spiders (and all insects) from entering your house.
  • If you do see a spider, just like me, DO NOT TOUCH IT!

Like this guy…

I know this video isn’t from Australia or related to Australia in any way, but it is about spiders. I’m putting this one up simply because it is an amazing video. Here is that guy I mentioned who went into the Amazon…

Yes, amazing! But you won’t catch me handling one.


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{ 25 comments… add one }
  • Tabitha March 5, 2023, 10:19 pm |

    I agree with one of the other commenter that their most definitely found outside of northern Queensland. I’ve seen 3 . I was living in clontarf at the time in across from the beach when I woke up to a whistling spider on my neck. I tapped it 3 times while still semi asleep then thinking at first it was a cockroach grabbed it and threw it across my partner. I knew once I’d grabbed it that it was too big to be a cockroach and woke the husband in a panic. After having a cup of coffee to calm down we went back to bed only for it to have revealed itself by being perched just above the bed. It was only then that my husband actually believed me. Years later we were walking on the beach on Bribie Island and one chased us all over the beach, I think it was hunting crabs before it saw us. The last one just wandered in a open sliding door in caboolture. These were most definitely whistling spiders and if they’re actually the same as the bird eating tarantula then I guess we’ve seen more than enough and they seem to be very common around here, but I guess we do have quite a few pockets of rain forest type areas. I think their more widespread than people think. Oh lastly we saw a giant spider running across the road that at first looked like a small animal until we got closer and realised it was a giant spider that was absolutely huge even bigger than the others. From the car however we couldn’t get a good enough look at exactly what kind it was, that was also around caboolture. He was running out from an untouched bush area across the road into the houses area. I must say in the 35yrs living in these areas I’ve seen some massive ones along with dinner plate sized huntsmen. The spiders are doing very well here.

    • BobinOz March 7, 2023, 6:49 pm |

      Very interesting stories Tabitha, sounds as though you were very brave as well. Just to explain to some other readers, Clontarf and Caboolture are still in Queensland, but south-east Queensland, and both just less than one hour drive from the centre of Brisbane.

      Luckily for those of us who do live in Brisbane, particularly Western side like me, that one hour drive translates into a 46 1/2 hour walk for a very big spider 🙂 so I am hoping that Clontarf and Caboolture is as far south as they get!

      Seriously though, I’m not surprised to hear this, and as temperatures continue to rise in this country, I can see the habitat of these huge spiders spreading further and further south. Watch out New South Wales!

      Mind you, they already have the funnel-web spider down there, so I don’t suppose they will be too concerned about bird eating spiders.

      Thanks for your comment, I enjoyed reading it.

  • Neil Beni December 31, 2018, 2:14 pm |

    North Queensland isn’t the only place lol
    I have caught many in the Northern Territory

    • BobinOz January 7, 2019, 5:03 pm |

      They are too, clearly the original information I got from Wikipedia was incorrect and is still incorrect on their website.

      I have made an amendment to the above post including a link to more accurate information.

      Thanks for letting me know Neil, I do truly appreciate it.

  • Paul Neve September 25, 2018, 9:46 pm |

    Gday BobinOz.

    When I was 15 1990ish me and my old girl saw a spider the size of a dinner plate one night coming back from esperance. No-one believed us but was so big sorta swerved to go round it we turned round went back and got out had a look. The three of us just standing there in the car headlights looking at each other, sorta wanted to catch it, more sorta wanted to wet my pants while running fast screaming. Didnt though just drove the last 3 hundred back to Kalgoorlie just in time to tell the non believers all about it, then and for thirty years since that monster was 280 mm at least and i dont lie. If its body dropped to the bitumen easy put another 50 on that. Going by my limited research since Mum and I saw Australia’s biggest spider that night of that we’re certain. Think Im full of it? Then ask me mum. 🙂

    • BobinOz September 27, 2018, 7:17 pm |

      Hi Paul

      Sorry your comment was held in a queue for moderation for a while, I’ve been up the coast enjoying a bit of beach time, and I’ve only just got back and had the chance to review it.

      I can see why your comment wasn’t approved automatically, there are certain words I prefer not to have appear on my website, so I hope you don’t mind, I made a few (ahem) minor changes to some of your phraseology 🙂

      Anyway, I’ve just done a bit of googling, apparently the largest spider in Australia is the Giant Green Huntsman Spider, Typostola barbata, with a leg span of over 200mm. So at 280+ mm, you sure found a big one.

      Glad to hear you managed to swerve around it, could have done some damage to your car 🙂

      Thanks for your story, I certainly believe you.

  • Marilyn Donnell July 7, 2017, 11:41 am |

    Bob – You say they are in northern QLD but I observed a spider (large one) catch a bird in her web and ate the thing over a few weeks (maybe 3-5 weeks?) until the web broke one day and the thing went down into the steep gully below and I could no longer observe it every day). This was in the SE suburb of Tingalpa in 1998 or early 1999. I wonder if it could be the same spider you are describing?

    • BobinOz July 7, 2017, 7:50 pm |

      It might well have been, we don’t have too many spiders as far as I’m aware that would eat a bird, and although they are mainly found in northern Queensland, I’m sure they get about a bit. So maybe, just maybe.

  • robert February 3, 2017, 11:41 pm |

    Hey Bob FROM oz 🙂
    Its Robert here again!

    You should do an article about the Golden Orb spider. They are as big as a dinner plate! I was up in QLD a long time ago, and walked face first into an enormous golden orb weaver nest/den/web – a canopy of them. I feel dizzy just thinking about it!

    I went pale white, sweaty and passed out from the terror! Now every time i see any kind of spider, i feel like im going to pass out. Sometimes i cry (no joke). I believe this is the true definition of “arachnophobia”.

    Side note: Ive never killed a spider in my life, and despite my crippling fear, I go out of my way to save every kind of spider that I can. Even funnels. I wish nobody would kill spiders, it makes me truly sad how many people have no regard for their lives. Its horrible 🙁

    What are the spiders like in England? I was under the impression there were barely no spiders in England, due to the colder weather in general?

    Love your blog, as always 🙂 Please keep blogging for many years to come!

    Many thanks,

    • BobinOz February 5, 2017, 8:24 pm |

      Hi Robert, how’s it going?

      Anyway, yes, I already have written an article about the Golden Orb spider, you can read it here…

      I had one of these things on my head for a brief while, as that article explains. I have to say Robert, I really admire your attitude. Even though you clearly have a fear of spiders, you really wouldn’t want to harm them, and it sounds like you would even make yourself distressed to save one from getting harmed as well.

      I like that 🙂

      I have another reader called Bill who has commented many times on this website, in particular on my page about Wolf spiders…

      If you have a look for his comment made in reply to Hannah on January 6, 2014, 7:08 pm, you will see that he had an irrational fear of spiders as well, and how he faced up to it. Well worth the read because it sounds as though you would be much happier if you could get on better with our 8 legged friends.

      Thanks for your kind words as well, yes, I’ll keep blogging and hopefully you and others will keep reading.

      Cheers, Bob

  • frank April 4, 2016, 7:19 pm |

    hate to tell you but i live in the very south of australia and in the city. all manner of small venomous spider manages to invade my home at any time it likes. flyscreens and windows closed, these things come from i don’t know where.

    redbacks sydney funnelweb spiders. funnelweb spiders. black house spiders. huntsmen.

    • BobinOz April 5, 2016, 8:16 pm |

      No bird eating spiders? 🙂

  • ALLAN ALLDER March 25, 2015, 10:23 am |


    • BobinOz March 26, 2015, 12:33 am |

      Oh, I’m sure they would be in NT, all critters love the Northern Territory 🙂 it’s a critter magnet.

  • Lidia Belyakova January 5, 2014, 6:35 pm |

    I have a very, very mild case of arachnophobia-I’m ‘not very fond’ of BIG spiders, but my biggest fear is… Ugh, ugh, centipedes!

    • BobinOz January 6, 2014, 8:07 pm |

      I’m not sure, but I think our big spiders have eaten all the centipedes 🙂

  • DrakWingedAngel November 9, 2013, 4:12 am |

    Yeah. Why is that girl playing around and kissing and making that spider mad(she possible thinks she cool or something, let the pros do it)? Is she NUTS! The other to clips were okay, cause they didn’t put it on their face.
    AHHHHHHH! That’s insane!

  • beau June 24, 2013, 3:30 pm |

    can anyone tell me where i can buy a goliath in sydney or in south west sydney

  • Jordan Costigan June 12, 2013, 6:45 pm |

    Well you were correct =). Most people think that the whistling spider is Australia’s larger spider because for decades it was! In the last 4 years there’s been several discoveries and classifications of tarantulas that live in the northern QLD forests. I actually cant find a picture of a Phlogius sp thats bigger than 20cm because they are so rare, it was believed that the Goliath was extinct for about 104 years and was rediscovered in 2008. There is one in a museum in QLD. My Goliath is about 13cm in diameter and is about 5 years old, They can live for up to 20 years.

    • BobinOz June 13, 2013, 1:19 pm |

      Ah, yours is just a baby…… at the moment 🙂 What a great pet to have though, a spider as rare as that, I hope he has a long and happy life.

      Thanks for the updated information Jordan, much appreciated.

  • Jordan Costigan June 12, 2013, 11:14 am |

    The Phlogius crassipes or whistling spider is not Australia’s biggest spider anymore. In 2008 the Phlogius sp Goliath was re-discovered and is being rehabilitated and bred in captivity. I own one of these spiders. They can grow to a leg span of 25 cm. The Phlogius strenuus is also larger than the Phlogius crassipes and can grow to a leg span of 20+ cm.

    • BobinOz June 12, 2013, 2:46 pm |

      Well, that told me, didn’t it? 🙂

      You clearly know your spiders Jordan, 25 cm is one pretty big spider. Can’t see that one fitting in my glass so I can slide a postcard underneath it.

      Can we have a photograph?



  • January 20, 2013, 11:28 am |

    We stayed Down Under for a year beginning in September 2011 and I was determined to see a Huntsman. Looked everywhere. For 4 months I could not find one of Australia’s Huntsman spiders or any other arachnid for that matter. Finally we visited the Blue Mountains for Christmas break. My 11 year old daughter came out of the bathroom of the cottage we rented and said Dad, you know that spider you’ve been looking for? I think it is on the ceiling in there. I swore she was pulling my leg. But sure enough, I go into the bathroom, look up, and there is a 4 inch Huntsman staring back at me. SWEET!

    I saw only one other spider the entire year. They are no worries. Cheers!

    • BobinOz January 25, 2013, 1:12 pm |

      You are right, they are no worries, and I’m glad you got to see one in the end. I think some people who have a fear of spiders think they will be stepping over them all the time, your story emphasises that this just isn’t the case.

      I think I see less spiders here in Australia than I did in England.


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