What bird is that?

09 November, 2008

Tawny Frogmouth and chick in a tree
Tawny Frogmouth and chick in a tree
Image: Daniela Angelico
Source: Daniela Angelico

Question: I saw this bird and its baby in a tree on our nature strip. Can you tell me what they are please?

Answer: These birds are Tawny Frogmouths, Podargus strigoides. Often thought to be related to owls, Tawny Frogmouths are more closely related to Nightjars.

They have large yellow eyes and a mottled appearance. Their feathers give them the appearance of a broken branch; this perfect camouflage makes them very difficult to spot during the day.

Tawny Frogmouths usually nest in open woodlands and forest areas. They mate for life and will come back to same area year after year to breed. They will even continually return the same nest, making repairs if necessary.

Tawny Frogmouths are sedentary birds. Unlike owls who hunt for their food, Frogmouths tend to wait for their food to come to them. They spend their days sitting in trees and only feed after dark. Tawny Frogmouths eat small prey such as mice, beetles and frogs and catch their prey with their beaks. Owls, on the other hand, use their talons to catch their food.

Tawny Frogmouths are quite common in inner city Melbourne. There is currently a family of Tawny Frogmouths living in Carlton Gardens just outside the Melbourne Museum. They are nesting in the trees on the Nicholson Street side of the museum. Tawny Frogmouths have a distinctive call consisting of a series of low echoing OOHs and booming drumbeats: OOM OOM OOM.

There are also two Tawny Frogmouths living in the Forest Gallery in the Melbourne Museum. Originally thought to be two males, Oscar and Albert reared a chick last year. The chick was named Muppet.

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