Tawny Frogmouth

Quick Facts

Length: -
Height: 44 cm
Weight: -
Colour: Silver-grey plummage, slightly paler below. Streaked and mottled with black and rufous. Yellow eye.
Habitat: Most habitat types except for the denser rainforests and treeless deserts
Food: Nocturnal Insects, worms, slugs and snail. Small mammals, reptiles, frogs and birds are also eaten
Predators: -
Status: Secure in all states and territories of Australia
Tawny Frogmouth
Tawny Frogmouth keeping a watchful eye in the night

The general plumage of the Tawny Frogmouth is silver-grey, slightly paler below, streaked and mottled with black and rufous. A second plumage phase also occurs, with birds being russet-red. The eye is yellow in both forms, and the wide, heavy bill is olive-grey to blackish. South-eastern birds are larger than birds from the north. Tawny Frogmouths are nocturnal birds (night birds). During the day, they perch on tree branches, often low down, camouflaged as part of the tree.

In Australia there are two other species of frogmouth. The Papuan Frogmouth is confined to the Cape York Peninsula and is larger, with an orange-red eye. The other species is the Marbled Frogmouth, which is similar in size to the Tawny Frogmouth, but is found only in the rainforests of far north Queensland and on the Queensland-New South Wales border and it has an orange-yellow eye. With their nocturnal habit and owl-like appearance, Tawny Frogmouths are often confused with owls, but are actually more closely related to the nightjars. Their feet are weak however, and lack the curved talons of owls.

The Tawny Frogmouth is found throughout Australia, including Tasmania.

The Tawny Frogmouth can be seen in almost any habitat type except the denser rainforests and treeless deserts.

The bulk of the Tawny Frogmouth's diet is made up of nocturnal insects, worms, slugs and snails. Small mammals, reptiles, frogs and birds are also eaten. Most food is obtained by pouncing to the ground from a tree or other elevated perch. Some prey items, such as moths, are caught in flight.

Tawny Frogmouths have a regular breeding season, but birds in more arid areas may breed in response to heavy rains. Both sexes incubate the eggs. The male sits during the day, but both sexes share sitting at night. The nest is a loose platform of sticks, which is usually placed on a horizontal forked tree branch. Normally only one brood is raised in a season, but birds from the south may have two.

There are many unfortunate instances of Tawny Frogmouths being hit by cars while chasing insects illuminated in the beam of the headlights.

Author: Rosalyn Plunkett
Last Updated: Wednesday 8th January, 2014
BirdLife Australia - www.birdlife.org.au


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