Tawny Frogmouth

Federico Colalongo

Alice Springs, Australia

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Artist's Description


Tawny frogmouths have enormous wide frog-like mouths, which they use to capture insects. They have large, horny, triangular, sharply hooked bills. Their legs are very short and their feet small and weak. They are somewhat lethargic in their movements, and are the weakest fliers in the order. Their rounded wings are only of moderate length.

Frogmouths range in length from 9 to 21 inches. Their soft silky plumage is marbled grey, patterned with cryptic streaks and barrings. The sexes are alike or nearly so. Most species are dichromatic, meaning they have ruddy brown and grayish color phases.


Tawny frogmouths are found in the tropics in forested savannas and open woodlands of Australia, including the island of Tasmania.


During the day frogmouths sleep perched lengthwise on a branch with their heads up and their eyes closed. Their color so matches the branch that they look like part of it and are almost impossible to see. These birds are active after dusk and before dawn.

Their nocturnal habits and their relative scarcity make them so difficult to study that comparatively little is known of their behavior.

The Tawny frogmouth’s call is a grunting “oom-oom-oom” which has a distinct nasal quality. It is repeated through the night.


Tawny frogmouths prey on creeping crawling things such as beetles, centipedes, scorpions, and caterpillars and occasionally mice. This ground feeder watches quietly from a convenient stump or branch until it spies its quarry and then flutters down on it.

In the Zoo, the Tawny frogmouths are fed commercially prepared Bird of Prey mix.


Frogmouths always nest in trees, usually in the fork of horizontal branches. Some birds build a frail platform of sticks, others a pad of their own feathers, which they camouflage with lichens (plants), mosses, and spider webs.

They lay 1 or 2 white eggs, which both sexes incubate, usually the female by night, the male by day. The young are covered with down at hatching and remain in the nest until able to fly.

Artwork Comments

  • Lisa Kenny
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