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 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.
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.
The Tawny Frogmouth is found throughout Australia, including Tasmania.
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.
A soft, deep and continuous low oom oom oom. Also makes a loud hissing noise when threatened.
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
There are many unfortunate instances of Tawny Frogmouths being hit by cars while chasing insects illuminated in the beam of the headlights.
- 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.