What is a Tawny Frogmouth?

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  • Written By: S. Ashraf
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  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2019
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A tawny frogmouth, or Podargus strigoides, is a medium to large member of the frogmouth family of birds. Tawny frogmouths are about 13-21 inches (34-53 cm) long, weigh 7-23 ounces (200-650 g) and have a wingspan of 26-39 inches (65-98 cm). In appearance, the tawny frogmouth is a silvery gray but is extensively marbled and streaked with shades of charcoal gray, black and brown. This species of frogmouth goes through a second color phase of plumage when it is a reddish brown. The most distinctive physical feature of the tawny frogmouth is its very large frog-like mouth, which is used to prey on insects.

Geographically, the tawny frogmouth is distributed throughout the Australian mainland. It is also found in southern New Guinea and Tasmania as well as many of the larger islands off the coast of Australia. This species of frogmouth does not migrate and is known to stay in the same location for several years.

Tawny frogmouths are comfortable in a variety of habitats and can be seen in just about any area that has some open spaces and trees. This bird can be found in both rural and urban areas. It will inhabit areas such as woodlands, forests and heaths. The only habitats it will not live in are treeless deserts and rainforests. It especially likes to be in areas where there are either gum or eucalyptus woodlands.


The tawny frogmouth is mainly a ground feeder, because it is the weakest flier in the frogmouth family. It actively hunts in the period just after dusk and before dawn. Most of its diet consists of worms, insects, snails and small mammals or reptiles that are active at night. Usually, it hunts by waiting for its prey to come to it and then pouncing on it from an elevated perch such as a branch or stump. The edges of its wing feathers are soft, which makes silent flight possible so that the tawny frogmouth can noiselessly position itself for feeding.

Tawny frogmouths mate for life, and breeding season lasts from about August to December. Nests are almost always built in trees, usually in the fork of a branch, and are constructed by building a platform of loose sticks. The birds then camouflage their nests by using things such as spider webs or mosses.

Females lay one to four eggs. Males and females take turns incubating them, and both feed the chicks. The eggs hatch after about a month, and the chicks leave the nest about 25 days later.


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