Tawny Frogmouth Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

The tawny frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) is a medium-size Australian bird that typically hunts during night. The bird is believed to have adapted many different habitats within its range. Unique among its features is that it camouflages itself in a way that neither a predator nor any prey can see it roosting on a tree. The frogmouth perches still on a branch and almost go unnoticed by other animals. Let us see what other characteristic features does it possess.

Tawny Frogmouth Facts

Anatomy

  • Tawny frogmouth is a night hunter and the day it spends roosting on a tree.
  • Adult frogmouths average 34 to 53 cm (13 to 21 in) in body-length.
  • The average weight of males is 354 g (12.5 oz) while females weigh up to 297 g (10.5 oz). The heaviest specimen ever recorded at 680 g (1.50 lb). They are slightly smaller than Papuan frogmouths.
  • The head is large and stocky with the wings that are rounded.
  • Tawny frogmouths have olive-grey to blackish bills which are hooked at the tip.
  • The upperparts show chestnut to brownish color and the edges are little black.
  • They have got large yellow eyes that are set at the front. The physical appearance of tawny frogmouths appears to be same as that of owls.
  • Couple of tawny frogmouths may be sitting low on a tree branch but are hardly visible for their plumage blends with the background of the tree. During broad daylight frogmouths spend many hours roosting still on a tree. When they see predator the adults produce alarm calls to warn their chicks to remain silent. All they have to do is to keep their mouth shut and they’ll go unnoticed.
tawny frogmouth facts
Tawny Frogmouth ©www.parks.tas.gov.au

Range & Habitat

  • Tawny frogmouths are thought to occur throughout much Australia including Tasmania. They are however not found in western Queensland, Nullabor Plain and the central Northern Territory.
  • Some of the population is also found on the New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Sumatra, Borneo, and Thailand.
  • Tasmania hosts large number of tawny frogmouths including the western and eastern parts of the state.
  • They are likely to make homes in a wide variety of habitats such as woodlands, heathland vegetation, savannahs, scrubs, and forests. In the eastern Australia they seem to prefer Eucalyptus forests because it offers them a remarkable cover.
  • Tawny frogmouths do not live in the thick forests nor do they like deserts with no trees.
  • Frogmouths fancy living in areas where they could find casuarinas and river gums. They are mainly found near river courses.
  • They are not even scared to live near human population. Frogmouths have adapted to living in public parks or gardens that are abundant in trees.

Behavior

  • Tawny frogmouths are noisy birds and their vocalizations are pretty meaningful—some are produced to warn off predators while others are meant to either claim territory or to mate.
  • Young frogmouths typically call when they are threatened and when they are starving. They have got sounds like oom-oom-oom’ grunting and clacking sounds. They are able to utter eight different sounds in just five seconds.
  • Frogmouths are adapted to living in open habitats. They can stand by extreme temperatures of the cold nights in winter and hot days in summer. Frogmouths do not go into hibernation in fact they enter into a torpor state (in winter) to lower down their body temperature. It lasts only for few hours.
  • In the mid-day they half-close their eyes while sitting motionless on a tree like the owls do.

Feeding Ecology & Diet

  • Tawny frogmouths have carnivorous diet. They rely on large insects including spiders, slugs, snails, beetles, centipedes, moths, worms, ants, bugs, wasps, cicadas, grasshoppers, scorpions, and millipedes.
  • The frogmouth’s diet also consists of many invertebrates. They supplement diet with birds, reptiles, small mammals, and frogs.
  • During daylight they are not really active but if they see any flying insect frogmouths open their mouth to capture it.
  • As the sun sets, the bird flies out to search large insects as well as small vertebrates. They are able to catch flying moths in the mid-air.
  • The general behavior of tawny frogmouths is that they capture prey from the ground and hold it in bill to take it to a nearby perch. Here it enjoys the meal. If it comes to large animal frogmouths first kill them on the ground then it eat it. They usually kill lizards or mice by throwing them against tree with great force.
tawny frogmouth facts
Tawny Frogmouths roosting ©www.australiangeographic.com.au

Reproductive Biology

  • Tawny frogmouths pair for life and they are thought to use the same territory year after year.
  • During the breeding season that begins from August to December the pair is seen roosting together on a branch.
  • Both males and females contribute toward building the nest which is mainly lined with twigs and leaves. The nest is measured 30 cm in diameter. In order to soften the center of the nest, birds place some loose sticks. However the frogmouth’s nest is mostly weak.
  • The female lays 1 – 3 eggs. During the night both parents incubate the eggs while in broad daylight only males do the job. One of the parents is always present at the nest that is to say they never leave the nest unattended.
  • Frogmouths attain maturity at 1 year age.
  • The incubation period lasts about 1 month.
  • The breeding interval is mostly of one year but it can be shorter than this.
  • The young frogmouths fledge out in about 25 – 35 days.
  • Predators of tawny frogmouth’s eggs include ravens, hobbies, rodents, butcherbirds, falcons, and of course snakes.

Conservation Status

Near Threatened

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