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Keeping the Tawny Frogmouth bird with Natural History

Tawny FrogmouthImages of the Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides), with its enormous yellow eyes, gaping mouth, “expressive face” (an impression given by the feathery “eyebrows”) and owl-like plumage, have captivated me since childhood.  For years, I stalked Whip-poor-wills, Nighthawks and different of its family that dwelled within the USA.  Precise contact with a Frogmouth was delayed, nevertheless, till I started working on the Bronx Zoo.  Nevertheless it was well worth the wait, and I quickly got here to spend many days and nights cramming meals into the capricious maws of hungry Frogmouth chicks…as a lot to my delight as theirs!


Though superficially resembling an owl in plumage, silent flight mode and nocturnal methods, the Tawny Frogmouth is classed within the order Caprimulgiformes. Numbered amongst this group’s 118 members is the cave-dwelling Oilbird, the one fowl identified to navigate through echo-location.

Tawny Frogmouths are positioned within the household Podargidae, together with 14 family.  Three Tawny Frogmouth subspecies – the biggest being 3x the dimensions of the smallest – have been described.  Different species embody the Papuan Frogmouth, of the Cape York Peninsula and New Guinea, and the Marbled Frogmouth, a rainforest dweller present in northern Queensland and New Guinea.

The 8 North American relations belong to the household Caprimulgidae (loosely translated as “goat-suckers”).  I’ve noticed 2 of those, the Whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferous) and the Widespread Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor), within the coronary heart of NYC.  The truth is, the swooping, erratic flight of Nighthawks, which resemble outsized bats, was a typical sight over Bronx buildings in my youth.  Flat rooftops serve Nighthawks as nest websites, however their numbers have declined in recent times.  The Chuck-will’s-widow (Caprimulgus carolinensis), first recorded in New York in 1975, has been noticed nesting on Staten and Lengthy Island.

Captive Care

You’ll want to go to a zoo if you happen to want to see a Tawny Frogmouth within the USA, however wildlife rehabilitators in Australia are continuously referred to as upon to look after displaced chicks and injured people.

Throughout the day, Frogmouths perch on useless limbs, counting on their mottled plumage to offer camouflage. They usually stretch upward, in imitation of a department, as properly.  Frogmouths make nice exhibit animals, content material to perch in full view all day; nevertheless, they do turn out to be confused if denied logs or stumps.  I’ve saved a number of in displays lit by pink bulbs, the place they’ve confirmed to be surprisingly energetic.

Rearing Chicks

Frogmouths below my care bred properly however didn’t all the time increase their chicks efficiently.  Hand-rearing, nevertheless, was often profitable.

Tawny Frogmouth and ChicksFrogmouth chicks have appetites that match their monumental mouths, and, even by child fowl requirements, eat an incredible quantity of meals. Chopped mice are the usual zoo food plan, however provided that they’re largely insectivorous, I experimented with different meals as properly. Roaches, grasshoppers, moths, earthworms, insectivorous fowl food plan, beef coronary heart and different such meals had been eagerly consumed.

I would not have my previous notes available, however current research have proven that hand-reared Frogmouth chicks usually acquire 8-9 grams per day, persistently, earlier than fledging.

Grownup Weight loss plan

Most zoos present solely mice or chicks to their Tawny Frogmouths. I’ve cared for a number of which have bred and lived into their early teenagers on this food plan, so it seems ample.  Nonetheless, my Frogmouths confirmed a really robust response to giant bugs, particularly roaches and grasshoppers. Whereas it’s troublesome to take care of birds of this measurement on invertebrates alone, occasional meals definitely add to their high quality of life.

Though primarily ambush predators that pounce on prey from above, Frogmouths additionally hunt actively…a minimum of when stimulated by novel meals. They’ve additionally been noticed chasing moths round road lights.

Close Call with a Cassowary (for me and a frogmouth!)

Frogmouths stay largely motionless, however are very conscious of their environment…a reality I realized the exhausting method.  After working with one particular person for a while, I got here to anticipate him to stay perched on his favourite stump as I serviced his cage in one of many Bronx Zoo’s off-exhibit areas.  He did…till he didn’t!

Tawny Frogmouth Camouflage Sooner or later, he flew previous me and out the door…taking off with out a sound once I turned my again.  Figuring out that birds sense and observe air currents, I first ran to shut the constructing’s unscreened kitchen window (a notably silly function in a fowl constructing!).  I returned to search out that the wayward Frogmouth had flown into the pen occupied by Margie, a notoriously ill-tempered Cassowary (please see article under).  The Frogmouth froze, head stretched up, within the species’ basic camouflage pose – perplexing Margie sufficient to make her pause. She circled, itching to kick the intruder into oblivion, however didn’t cost. I grabbed a “push board”, entered, and was capable of catch the frightened Frogmouth earlier than both of us might be attacked.

Pure Historical past


The Tawny Frogmouth is discovered throughout the size and breadth of Australia, and likewise happens on Tasmania and several other offshore islands.


Though commonest in sparsely-wooded scrub and forest clearings, the Tawny Frogmouth additionally inhabits rainforest edges, overgrown farmland, gardens and metropolis parks.  It’s absent from deserts and rainforest interiors.

Weight loss plan

Subject research have proven that beetles, moths, spiders, centipedes, snails and different invertebrates make up roughly 95% of the food plan. Frogs, lizards and small mammals comprise the steadiness.

Most Frogmouths drink sometimes, if in any respect.


Tawny Frogmouth Chicks in nest
Copy happens seasonally in most habitats, or in response to rains in arid areas.  Most observers report that the male incubates the 2-3 eggs by day, with each mother and father getting into the nest cavity at evening.  The eggs hatch in 27-31 days and the chicks, that are fed by each mother and father, fledge when they’re roughly 1 month previous.


Though most populations are secure, cats, foxes and vehicles pose growing threats.  Secondary pesticide poisoning can be a priority.


Tawny Frogmouths can tolerate fairly excessive and low temperatures.  In frequent with a number of associated species, they will turn out to be lethargic throughout chilly nights – hibernating, in essence, for brief durations.

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