Animal Species:Tawny Frogmouth

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.

Tawny Frogmouth with prey

WK Clifford © Australian Museum

Standard Common Name

Tawny Frogmouth

Identification

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.

Size range

34 cm to 53 cm

Similar Species

Papuan Frogmouth, Marbled Frogmouth

Distribution

The Tawny Frogmouth is found throughout Australia, including Tasmania.

Habitat

The Tawny Frogmouth can be seen in almost any habitat type (except the denser rainforests and treeless deserts), including heath, forest and woodlands, urban and rural areas.

Feeding and Diet

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, which has led to many unfortunate instances of birds being hit by cars while chasing insects illuminated in the beam of the headlights.

Other behaviours and adaptations

During the day, the Tawny Frogmouth perches on a tree branch, often low down, camouflaged as part of the tree.

Communication

A soft, deep and continuous low oom oom oom. Also makes a loud hissing noise when threatened.

Mating and reproduction

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.

  • Breeding Season: August to December
  • Clutch size: 2 to 3

Conservation Status

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

Classification

Species:
strigoides
Genus:
Podargus
Family:
Podargidae
Order:
Caprimulgiformes
Class:
Aves
Phylum:
Chordata
Kingdom:
Animalia

What does this mean?

References

  • Higgins, P.J. (ed) 1999. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Volume 4 (Parrots to Dollarbird). Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
  • Strahan, R. (ed) 1994. Cuckoos, Nightbirds and Kingfishers of Australia. Angus and Robertson/Australian Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.


Ondine Evans , Web Researcher/Editor
Last Updated:

Tags tawny frogmouth, nocturnal, birds, biby,

13 comments

gregjohnoz - 2.02 PM, 01 February 2012
We have had several of these wonderful birds nest around our place over the last few years, they are becoming quite used to the camera. This behaviour I have never seen before, I think it is simply sunning their chins in the late afternoon sun, or maybe they are blocking out the sun from their eyes, We are in Frankston Victoria.

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Jaynia Sladek - 12.03 PM, 08 March 2011

What cuties! Thanks for the pic.

Jaynia Sladek - 12.03 PM, 08 March 2011

Hi Laura, sorry to take so long to get back to you about the frogmouths, I've been away for 2 months.  How are they going? To answer your question, it isn't always easy to sex frogmouths. Depending on which part of Australia you live, the birds you are looking after will be chestnut, rufous or grey morph. If they are grey morph, it will probably be hard to tell their sex, as male Tawyny Frogmouths are virtually always grey and the only real difference between sexes in the grey morph will be size; as a generalisation, adult males tend to be bigger than females, but this can be variable. However, if the birds are chestnut or rufous morph, then it's pretty safe to say they are female.  It is difficult to tell what sex juveniles are. I hope this helps!

deb mostert - 11.02 AM, 13 February 2011
had a couple of babies perch just opposite our verandah.... only two days out of the nest.

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laura - 3.12 PM, 29 December 2010
admiring our christmas tree :P
laura - 3.12 PM, 29 December 2010
my mum is a vet, and a couple of weeks ago somebody cut down a tree with tawny chicks in. We are now raising the them (there are 2). They are not the first that we have had to raise, and they are a joy. We have them flying in our living room, but we have the doors open so they can fly anywhere (we are also rural.) I was wondering however how you tell the difference between males and females.
Jaynia Sladek - 12.11 PM, 01 November 2010

Hi David.  I also love watching everything nesting and raising young. You are lucky to be able to watch it from the comfort of your living room!  

dpayne - 3.10 PM, 28 October 2010
I have one nesting directly opposite the living room window at home , this is its second go, it lasted 10 days a month ago, then two weeks ago a pair were roosting nearby for the day, and now one of those is back in the nest, and we are up to 10 days as well. hoping for a result this time, have had hatchings in the past in another nest from a different pair, great fun to watch it all happen,
Jaynia Sladek - 10.10 AM, 28 October 2010

Hi Suzanne, I'm not sure why your frogmouth is calling so much. It could be that if its mate has died, it is trying to attract another, or it might be simply because it's spring and breeding season has stimulated it to call. In any case, let us know if there are more chicks this year. Best regards, Jaynia

suzanne - 12.10 PM, 22 October 2010
I had a pair of tawnys hatch three chicks last year. This year have only seen one but now have the same nest occupied. The incessant hooting is going on last night. Why would the male be calling all night and sometimes at day. Might it be the female nesting having lost the male. Had to lift her/him off the letterbox the other day close to the road and put him back in the tree. Would love some help. Suzanne
Ondine Evans - 10.01 AM, 05 January 2010

Lovely pics, Ladymaggic, thankyou! We would love to be able to post these images on this page - contact me via my staff contact form (just click on my name to find it) if you would be willing to share them (you would retain full copyright and be fully acknowledged as the photographer, of course!).

Ladymaggic - 10.01 PM, 04 January 2010
Frogmouth camouflaged on the tree

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Ladymaggic - 10.01 PM, 04 January 2010
Beautiful Birds...this is a Baby Frogmouth at Burrum Heads Queensland

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