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Tawny frogmouths have enormous, wide, frog-like mouths to capture insects. Their bill is large, horny, triangular, and sharply hooked. Their legs are very short and their feet small and weak. They are slow and deliberate in their movements, and are the weakest fliers in the order. They have rounded, medium length wings. Their plumage is mottled grayish-brown with darker streaks. There is little to no sexual dimorphism.
Range in length from 22.5-52.5 cm (9-21 in)
Fish, amphibians, crustaceans, and insects
10 years in managed conditions
Australia and Tasmania
Forest and scrubland trees - with special preference for open eucalyptus woodlands
Abundant through range
Frogmouths nest in trees, usually in the fork of horizontal branches. Their nests are made of sticks, and sometimes padded with their own feathers, which they camouflage with lichen, moss, and spider webs. Both parents incubate the clutch. When hatched, the young are covered with down and remain in the nest until able to fly.
Often mistaken for owls, these unique birds are part of the nightjar, nighthawks, and whippoorwill family.
Tawny frogmouths, nocturnal insect hunters, have whisker-like feathers around their large mouth to help trap prey in their wide, frog-like mouth. Their unusual appearance serves as effective camouflage during the day while perching in trees.
Unlike other birds that fly at night catching insects, tawny frogmouths remain very still, waiting for prey. The insect or spider, fooled by the frogmouth's coloring, is quickly maneuvered by the whisker-like feathers above their beak and eaten.
During the day, frogmouths usually sleep in a sedentary position, when disturbed they raise their head and stiffen their body, simulating a branch. This behavior is called "stumping".
They can be heard emitting a soft warning buzz, similar to a bee, when startled.
These birds are normally monogamous, communicating with a low, grunting "oom-oom-oom" call.
ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION
Frogmouths are abundant throughout their range, but are often killed or injured on the roads during feeding. Tawny frogmouths are at high risk of exposure to pesticides as they have adapted to living in close proximity to human populations. A decade ago, specific termite chemicals were banned throughout Sydney because of their toxicity to other species, but their persistence in the environment continues to pollute the food chain. Tawny frogmouths are also at risk from predators, such as cats, dogs, and foxes.
Wildlife of Greater Brisbane
. Queensland Museum, Brisbane, 1995.
Reader's Digest Services.
Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds
. Surry Hills, NSW, 1979.
Strahan, R. (Ed.).
Cuckoos, Nightbirds and Kingfishers of Australia
. The National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife. Angus and Robertson, 1994.