Australian Bush Birds
Tawny Frogmouth  -  Podargus strigoides
Frogmouth juvenile
Tawny Frogmouth.
Tawny Frogmouth Tawny Frogmouth
Tawny Frogmouth resting motionless in a tree. These are the grey version strigoides. Photographed at Inverell, NSW.
map map Grey-brown, streaked, mottled plumage makes the Tawny Frogmouth - Podargus strigoides - look like a weathered branch as it sits in camouflage pose in a tree. Often found in the fork of a branch leaning against the main trunk. Prominent bristles on top of the broad bill enhance the camouflage. Tawny Frogmouth spends daylight hours motionless in trees, often in plain view but unseen by passersby. Becomes active at dusk and later hunting ground-dwelling creatures including large insects, spiders, frogs, small mammals and ground birds by swooping down from a low perch on silent wings to take prey from the ground. Grows 35 to 50 centimetres.

Lives in woodlands, open eucalyptus forest and variety of other vegetation types; least often seen in treeless deserts, rainforest or wet, dense, tall eucalypt forests. Call is a low, resonant, persistent 'oom-oom-oom'.

Male and female pair permanently and roost near each other during the day; side by side or with their young after breeding. When alarmed they freeze, compact their plumage and close their eyes to narrow slits hiding the yellow irises; they try to look like part of the tree.

Tawny Frogmouth - page 2
If provoked sufficiently they react with a snap of their bills showing yellow mouths. They are sedentary birds, living in the same 20 to 80 hectares of woodland for years and often using the same roosts.

Permanent pairs breed between August and December; apparently one brood per season. The nest is a flimsy platform of crossed twigs up to 30 centimetres across in a horizontal fork of a tree 3 to 25 metres above the ground; or sometimes in stumps. The same site is used repeatedly. Both partners drum from the nest site when breeding time arrives; the birds place a green twig on the chosen site which is left for a few days then build the nest over several nights.

Frogmouth pair
Pair of Tawny Frogmouths resting a tree.
Tawny Frogmouth Tawny Frogmouth
Left: Tawny Frogmouth stationary in fork of tree; note the broad, rounded beak with bristles above and the rounded tail. Judging by the colour this is a female.
Right: Yellow, partly open, eyes are reported to be observing activity but the bird gave no sign of awareness.
Photographed at Port Smith, nr Broome. These are the northern version, race phalaenoides.
Tawny Frogmouth - page 3
One to three eggs are laid; pure white, 40 to 50 by 30 to 35 millimetres in southeast Australia, slightly smaller (by 5mm all round) in the north. Incubated by both parents for 28 to 32 days. Each parent may spend up to 12 hours incubating the eggs, the males often by day. Young fledge in 25 to 35 days. At one month the young moult and adopt adult plumage.

A widespread and locally common species which does not migrate. Found all over Australia, except in deserts and treeless plains. There are three geographic variants around Australia incorporating variations in size and colour. Males are always grey; females are grey, rufus or chestnut.

#   Race strigoides is found in south-eastern Australia along the east coast to Cairns-Cooktown and west to the inland fringes of the Great Divide and to south-eastern South Australia. These birds are large, dark grey and strongly marked.

#   Race brachypterus is found in inland New South Wales, South Australia, the southern two-thirds of Western Australia and southern Northern Territory. These birds are medium-sized and uniformly rich grey.

#   Race phalaenoides is a small and paler version, males are grey, females rufous, found across northern Australia and Cape York down to the Great Sandy Desert and the Barkly Tableland.