Tawny Frog Mouth Owl

Tawny mouth frog

These pictures were taken in the backyard of a local resident of Barmera, near Lake Bonney.

Photo Credit:  Scott Johncock

Thank you Scott for these great photos.

Bibliography:  Berri Barmera Landcare Facebook:

With their nocturnal habits and owl-like appearance, Tawny Frogmouths are often confused with owls, but they are in their own family. Unlike owls, Frogmouths don’t use hollows but roost out in the open, lack the curved talons, have a very different, very broad bill and their eyes are to the sides of their head, not to the front like the owls do.

You can find these birds of about 45cm in most habitats including urban areas. They feed mainly on nocturnal insects, worms, slugs and snails, so play an important role in pest control. Small mammals, reptiles, frogs and birds are also eaten. You may hear them during the night when they produce a deep repeated oom-oom-oom call.

A very basic, too small looking stick nest is used to raise 2-3 chicks during spring, with both parents incubating and caring. Tawny frogmouths form partnerships for life and once established, pairs will usually stay in the same territory for a decade or more. Establishing and maintaining physical contact is an integral part of the lifelong bond.

For their protection they heavily rely on camouflage. With their streaky grey plumage, sitting against a broken off stump, pointing their bill upwards to break up their silhouette they become practically invisible in broad daylight.

Being so exposed to the elements means Tawny Frogmouths had to develop special adaptations to cope with the temperature changes. During winter they regularly go into a state of torpor for a few hours, significantly slowing down heart-rate and metabolism which lowers body temperature and results in energy conservation. They will also choose more exposed and northerly positions to roost to make the most of the sun’s rays, and may huddle together.
In summer they tend to choose positions on branches that do not have all day exposure to sunlight. They can also triple their breathing rate without the need to open their beaks. If this is not enough they can pant, engorge the blood vessels in the mouth and produce a mucus that helps to cool air as it is inhaled and hence cool the body! Amazing!

Bibliography: Thank you to The Berri Barmera Landcare:  Facebook

The bulk of the Tawny Frogmouth’s diet is made up of 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.

When disturbed during rest, they can emit a soft warning buzz that sounds similar to a bee, and when threatened, they can make a loud hissing noise and produce clacking sounds with their beaks. At night, tawny frogmouths emit a deep and continuous “oom-oom-oom” grunting at a frequency of about eight calls in 5 seconds.