Tawny Frogmouth - Podargus strigoides

Tawny Frogmouth

This bird is so perfectly camouflaged during the day that it may be living near you, without you ever noticing it. To avoid detection during the day, tawny frogmouths sit upright, completely motionless on branches in trees, with their heads tilted up and eyes closed to slits. Their plumage is finely streaked and mottled in grey and brown, and in this posture the birds look just like broken branches.

If a frogmouth is disturbed, it may adopt a threatening pose, fluffing out its feathers, showing its wide orange eyes and opening its beak in a wide froglike gape to reveal its yellow throat, hoping to appear intimidating.

Despite their large size: 40-50cm, you might not see tawny frogmouths during the day, but you can hear them at night. They have a low, humming 'ooom-ooom-ooom' call, which, when I first heard one, I thought it was an old fashioned reciprocating pump (.wav file from QPWS). Then I went outside with a torch and the beam was reflected back from two large round orange eyes.

At night, tawny frogmouths eat insects like moths, which they may catch in flight around streetlights and garden lights. They also sit on branches and scan for movement, ready to drop to the ground to catch worms, slugs, snails. Occasionally they eat mice and frogs.

They are the ghostly light birds that so dangerously fly in front of your headlights at night or can be seen standing beside the road. Please slow down when driving at night - the large nightjars, owls, and possums are just some of the wildlife that can so easily become victims of our speed.

Tawny Frogmouth
photos by Barry Chick

QPWS   Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (incl. recording of call)
NSW NPWS   NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
wikipedia   Wikipedia article on the Tawny Frogmouth

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