Tawny Frogmouth

A Tawny Frogmouth sitting on a dead tree branch with its beak open
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Scientific Name: Podargus strigoides

Size: The body length is 35 to 50 cm, with south-eastern birds larger than birds from the north.

What does it look like?

The Tawny Frogmouth is nocturnal. During the day it perches on a tree branch, often low down, and cleverly camouflages itself as part of the tree. 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; these birds are russet-red. The eye is yellow in both forms, and the wide, heavy bill is olive-grey to blackish. 

Due to their nocturnal habit and owl-like appearance, Tawny Frogmouths are often confused with owls. Tawny Frogmouths are actually more closely related to the nightjars.

Where is it found?

The Tawny Frogmouth is distributed throughout Australia and Tasmania.

What are its habitats & habits?

It can be seen in almost any habitat type, but is absent from the denser rainforests and treeless deserts.

The bulk of the Tawny Frogmouth’s diet is made up of nocturnal insects, worms and molluscs. Small mammals, reptiles, frogs and birds are also eaten. Most food is obtained by pouncing on the ground from a perch in a tree. Some prey, such as moths, are caught in flight, which has led to many unfortunate instances of birds being hit by cars while chasing insects that have been illuminated in the beam of the headlights.

Tawny Frogmouths breed mainly from August to December, although birds in the more arid areas may breed in response to heavy rains. Both sexes incubate the 2 or 3 eggs, with the male performing these duties during the day, but both share the 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.

Interesting facts

In Australia there are three species of frogmouth. The Papuan Frogmouth, P. papuensis, is confined to Cape York Peninsula, and is larger, with an orange-red eye, while the Marbled Frogmouth, P. ocellatus, is similar in size to the Tawny Frogmouth, but is found only in the rainforests of far north Queensland and on the Queensland-NSW border, and has an orange-yellow eye.

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Front cover of Australia's Birdwatching Megaspots book showing a picture of an Eastern Spinebill

This species features in my book Australia’s Birdwatching Megaspots

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