The general plumage of the Tawny Frogmouth is silver-grey, slightly paler below, streaked and mottled with black and rufous. A second plumage phase also occurs, with birds being russet-red. The eye is yellow in both forms, and the wide, heavy bill is olive-grey to blackish. Tawny Frogmouths are nocturnal birds (night birds).
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 — staying very still and upright, they look just like part of the branch.