CAMOUFLAGED: Tawny Frogmouth on the nest with two chicks.
CAMOUFLAGED: Tawny Frogmouth on the nest with two chicks.

BRIGGSY’S BIRDS: Invisible by day, silent by night

THE tawny frogmouth is one of our more common night birds that has adapted to the urban environment.

They are silver-grey, slightly paler below, streaked and mottled with black and rufous. The eye is yellow and the wide, heavy bill is olive-grey to blackish.

They are nocturnal (night) birds. During the day, they perch on tree branches, often low down, choosing a tree branch of similar colour to itself and when disturbed will stretch out to make itself look like a small branch of the tree.

This disguise is very effective and makes them difficult to see.

Just after sunset they will fly out to feed on 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.

The leading edge of their wing feathers have a fringe that reduces noise so their prey do not hear them approaching.

Their eyes are very large so they can capture small amounts of light, allowing them to see in the dark.

They also have excellent hearing, which means they can hear prey moving through leaf litter.

Their hunting technique is to sit on a low branch to watch and listen for prey.

They build the most rudimentary nest of twigs in the horizontal fork of a tree branch and lay two to three eggs.

Both sexes share the incubation, with the male sitting by day and then sharing duties at night, allowing each other to hunt.

They will often roost and breed in suburban trees so you might be lucky enough to have one in your backyard.

If not they are regularly seen in Tondoon Botanic Gardens.

Allan Briggs is the secretary of BirdLife Capricornia, ask him bird questions at abriggs@irock.com.au.



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