A great egret looks for breakfast at Calamvale Creek


Scientific stuff

Tribal mask spider
Also called
spotted ground swift spider,
swift ground spider,
zebra-legged spider,
mitre-headed spider.

Supunna picta
Family: Corinnidae (formerly Clubionidae)
Order: Araneida
Class: Arachnida

Body length.
Female, 7 millimetres
male, 6 millimetres

Body basic black, white vertical stripe down centre of head and around each side of head. Abdomen has white spots resembling eyes, nose, mouth, double-chin, with white dots around side. Legs are thin with black and white alternate banding. Front legs are noticeably amber-coloured.

The tribal mask spider gets its name because its head and abdomen together resemble a tribal mask. The head also looks a little like a bishop's mitre. The spider's small black eyes are at the top of the middle vertical white line, one on each side of the line.

Tribal mask spiders are also commonly known as swift ground spiders, because they move so quickly. They are difficult to catch and photograph because they move so fast and rarely rest in the open.

Type-A. Always hurrying and on the move.

Using our photos

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Swifty's photos

Swifty almost got away from our photographer because she moved so fast.

The photographer said:

“I saw Swifty for only about 20 seconds while she was hurrying around a paperbark tree.

“I think she should enter the spider Olympics. In the 20 seconds I tried to photograph her, she ran all up, down, and around the tree trunk. She wouldn't stay still, and I lost sight of her several times as she ducked under bark and into cracks.

“She stopped briefly after bursts of running, but as soon as I focused the camera she was off again before I could take a photo.

“I admire photographers who get clear photos of these spiders in the wild, because you have almost no time to focus and snap the shot.

“I managed to snap a few photos quickly when Swifty paused, but I felt dizzy after watching her!”

Critters of Calamvale Creek

Swifty the tribal mask spider

Also known as:
spotted ground swift spider, swift ground spider, zebra-legged spider, mitre-headed spider

Supunna picta

swift_ground_spider_1 (23K) Phew! Hi! Can't stay long. Got a lot of dashing about to do.

I'm Swifty the tribal mask spider from Calamvale Creek. I spend most of my days darting about. I have to run here, there, everywhere in fact. There's so much running around to do.

I've visited nearly every tree in Calmvale Creek that has loose bark on it. Man, that's fun! And that's why I'm often called a swift spider — because I cover a lot of territory fast.

Where do I live?

I don't have one place called home. The whole park around the creek is my home. I cover too much territory to settle down in one place.

I'm most active in summer, and unlike a lot of spiders, males of our species look almost the same as females. When it's time to breed, in autumn and winter, I will construct a flat, white egg-sac shaped like a disk about 5 millimetres wide.

swift_ground_spider_2 (35K)

Sometimes people call me a swift ground spider. Yeah, sure. I don't mind the ground, as long as it's got rocks, dead leaves, and stuff like that. But mostly I run all over the trees beside Calamvale Creek. That's where I live and spend most of my time.

Fastest spider in Australia

swift_ground_spider_3 (9K)No one ever catches me, because I'm the fastest spider in Australia.

I've been trying to get the other spiders around the creek to join me in holding a spider sprint. Hah! Imagine Bianca the bowl spider, Minti the golden orb web spider, or those other stay-at-homes ever getting close to me. I would win legs down.

I don't build a web. There's no time. I couldn't stay still long enough to build one anyway.

What do I eat?

I eat any little insects or small spiders that get in my way. I'm so fast they don't see me coming, and I'm gone before they realize I got them.

An interesting thing about me is that when I run I wave my two front legs above my body. This looks like a wasp waving its antennas.

Why am I called a tribal mask spider?

swift_ground_spider_4 (4K) I got that name because I look like a black mask of some weird native tribe. Take a look at the pattern. Scary, huh?

But people give me lots of different names — swift ground spider, spotted ground swift spider, zebra-legged spider, mitre-headed spider — probably because by the time they think up a name I've travelled to heaps of other places and someone else has thought up a different one.

Am I dangerous?

Hah! I'm not likely to bite you, because I'll be a blur in your memory before you catch me. But if you are stupid enough to put your finger on my head I will make sure you feel some pain, but it probably won't kill you.

Gotta run.

— Swifty the tribal mask spider