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Tawny Frogmouth

Podargus strigoides


Tawny Frogmouths are Australian native birds and are related to the Nightjar family. They are often mistaken for owls but are, in fact, more closely related to kookaburras and kingfishers than to owls. Males and females look alike and are 35–53 cm (14–21 in) long. This very bulky species can weigh up to 680 grams (1.5 lbs) and, an overweight zoo specimens, up to 1400 grams (3.1 lbs). This species thus reaches the highest weights known in the Caprimulgiformes order. They have yellow eyes and a wide beak topped with a tuft of bristly feathers. They make loud clacking sounds with their beaks and emit a reverberating booming call. Tawny Frogmouths hunt at night and spend the day roosting on a dead log or tree branch close to the tree trunk. Their camouflage is excellent and by staying very still and upright, they look just like part of the branch. The bulk of the Tawny Frogmouth's diet is made up of nocturnal insects, worms, slugs and snails. Small mammals, reptiles, frogs and birds are also eaten. Most food is obtained by pouncing to the ground from a tree or other elevated perch. Some prey items, such as moths, are caught in flight, which has led to many unfortunate instances of birds being hit by cars while chasing insects illuminated in the beam of the headlights. They catch their prey with their beaks rather than with their talons, another way in which they are different from owls. Owls fly around at night hunting food, but Tawny Frogmouths generally remain sitting very still on a low perch, and sometimes drop from their perch onto the prey on the ground. The bird's large eyes and excellent hearing aid nocturnal hunting, and like the owls, they are completely silent in flight. I can attest to that personally.


The Tawny Frogmouth can be seen in almost any habitat type (except the denser rainforests and treeless deserts), including heath, forest and woodlands, urban and rural areas. I have personally witnessed these birds in my own backyard, roosting during daylight hours in various native and imported trees, on fences and verandah railings, under eves on gutter downpipes, and on one occasion, on the top of an open door. A friend of mine said she had one in her kitchen, perched on top of a cupboard. If they feel safe, why not?!


This beautiful Tawny Frogmouth has been harassed all morning by a Magpie, and from this expression has had quite enough. Being nocturnal, it would usually perch very quietly in the tree and sleep all day in a position known as 'stumping', or as I like to call it, 'doing the stick thing'. However, on this occasion it was spotted. It's the first time I've ever seen the wing markings in full display simply because Tawnies fly at night. Had it not been for the Magpie's intrusion, I would never have seen this bird in such an animated 'daytime' pose.

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26 Comments (1–25)

Neil Ross
Neil Ross 9 years ago

Thanks, Joshua. It was wonderful to see this fellow in such an animated pose- a rare thing in daylight hours.

JoshuaGSmith 9 years ago

Amazing capture!

Neil Ross
Neil Ross 9 years ago

Thanks, Pam and Marta. I christened my old Canon S90 with this spotting, and my new Canon with my latest frogmouth spotting. They bring me good luck. Lots of joy too when I see them.

The MnMs
The MnMs 9 years ago

Beautiful bird, Neil!

pamsai 9 years ago

Great shot Neil...

Sachin Zaveri
Sachin Zaveri 11 years ago

Lovely series,

mcaul6515 11 years ago

I love frogmouths! Awesome photos.

naross 11 years ago

Many thanks to all for the comments, and Sachindra, cheers for the 'two thumbs up'! I was hoping to see some chicks this (southern) Summer past, but none were to be found. I do have some photos of a previous batch so I'll post those instead. This was the only Tawny I saw all Summer which is most unusual, but hopefully the next breeding season will be more fruitful. These are wickedly awesome birds, and one of my favourites :-)

SachindraUmesh 11 years ago

Fantastic series!!! great info!! Two thumbs up!!

williefromwi 11 years ago

Wonderful series, wonderful captures, great information too. Thanks Neil!

Mark Ridgway
Mark Ridgway 11 years ago

Super set of pics Neil.

LouiseBlackwood 11 years ago


MuditaPro 11 years ago

Fabulous photos, thank you for the education.

Elsa 11 years ago

SO CUTE!! I LOVE frogmouths..

julia11cc 11 years ago

i wish i could see that like you did!!!

ccm8 11 years ago

thats amazing!!!

julia11cc 11 years ago

so cool

KarenL 11 years ago

Fun fact! The tawny frogmouth has perfected an extremely energy efficient way of hunting. Unlike most other nocturnal birds that fly to catch insects, the well-camouflaged frogmouth remains very still, blending into its surroundings. Any unsuspecting insect that lands on or close by it is quickly maneuvered by the whisker-like feathers above its beak, and eaten. During the day, it usually sleeps in a sedentary position, raising its head and stiffening its body if disturbed to mimic a branch, in a behavior known as “stumping”. It’s an effective strategy, as you can see here!

DanielePralong 11 years ago

Oh I love those! Great series Neil!

Gerardo Aizpuru
Gerardo Aizpuru 11 years ago

Very cool series !

SandraPereira 11 years ago

Wow ..lovely

Jacob Gorneau
Jacob Gorneau 11 years ago

Spectacular! What an awesome bird!

DonnaBollenbach 11 years ago

This is fast becoming one of my favorite birds. Love the expressions! Thanks for the interesting narrative.

Reza Hashemizadeh
Reza Hashemizadeh 11 years ago

Awesome !

ShannaB 11 years ago

Gorgeous series! The many faces of a tawny!! : )

Neil Ross
Spotted by
Neil Ross

Fairfield, Queensland, Australia

Spotted on Nov 9, 2012
Submitted on Apr 26, 2013

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