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Frogmouths: Podargidae

Tawny Frogmouth (podargus Strigoides): Species Account

Physical characteristics: Tawny is a brownish yellow color, and this frogmouth species has variations of those colors in their patterned plumage. Like other members of the Caprimulgiformes order, feather colors blend in with the color of trees. This form of camouflage is known as protective coloration.

The upper feathers of male tawny frogmouths are usually gray with black streaks. Lower plumage is a lighter gray, with black streaks and white bars. There may be various shades of brown in the plumage. Female tawny frogmouths have more brown and rufous in their plumage.

Tawny frogmouths have yellow eyes and light brown bills surrounded by bristles. The birds have small legs and feet. The middle toe of each foot is longer than other toes. Tawny frogmouths range in length from 13.5 to 21 inches (34 to 53 centimeters). They weigh from 6 ounces to 1.5 pounds (180 to 670 grams).

Geographic range: Tawny frogmouths are found in Australia and Tasmania.

Habitat: Tawny frogmouths live in all Australian habitats except rainforests where heavy rain produces an abundance of trees that do not shed leaves and deserts where there are no trees. They can be found in grassland areas where there are few trees, deciduous forests where trees shed leaves, plantations of trees planted by people, and tree groves. Tawny frogmouths also live in the gardens of suburban neighborhoods.

Diet: Tawny frogmouths eat insects, worms, slugs, and snails. They also eat frogs, small mammals, reptiles, and birds. The choice of food for these nocturnal birds is based on what prey they can find at night.

Tawny frogmouths usually get their prey by swooping down, flying quickly from their tree perches. Birds use their strong bills to capture prey and then swallow it.

Hungry tawny frogmouths may also fly from their perches and try to capture flying insects like moths. This chase in the air is not just dangerous for the prey, which could be captured in flight. The tawny frogmouth may chase insects illuminated by the car headlights. While the lights help the predator see its prey, the birds often collide with the cars and die.

Behavior and reproduction: Tawny frogmouths usually breed from August to December. However, birds in dry areas may breed after heavy rains. Birds build a platform nest of loose sticks in the fork of a tree branch. The female lays two or three eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs. The male usually incubates during the day. The male may do this because the female is more colorful and would be seen by predators during daylight.

Eggs hatch in about thirty days. Both parents feed the chicks. The young birds fledge, grow their feathers, after thirty to thirty-five days. Tawny frogmouths usually only breed once a year. However, female birds in southern Australia sometimes have two broods, sets of chicks.

Tawny frogmouths and people: People driving at night may unintentionally kill tawny frogmouths that fly in front of their car while hunting flying insects.

Conservation status: Tawny frogmouths are not in danger of extinction, dying out. ∎


Web sites:

"Red List Text." BirdLife International. http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/downloads/red_list.txt (accessed on June 5, 2004).

"Tawny Frogmouth." Australian Museum Online. http://www.amonline.net.au/factsheets/tawny_frogmouth.htm (accessed on June 1, 2004).

"Tawny Frogmouth." Environmental Protection Agency/Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/nature_conservation/wildlife/nocturnal_animals/birds/tawny_frogmouth/ (accessed on June 1, 2004).

"Tawny Frogmouth." Honolulu Zoo. http://www.honoluluzoo.org/tawny_frogmouth.htm (accessed on June 1, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsFrogmouths: Podargidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Tawny Frogmouth (podargus Strigoides): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, FROGMOUTHS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS