Backyard Buddies
Tawny Frogmouth

Photo: David Croft/OEH

Tawny Frogmouth

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Tawny frogmouths are between 40–50cm long from head to tail. With their nocturnal habit and owl-like appearance, they are often thought of as owls. However their feet are weak, and lack the curved talons which owls use to catch prey.

They live singly or in pairs and occasionally in family groups. They may remain in the same area for many years.

The soft edges of their feathers enable silent flight.

This bird is so perfectly camouflaged during the day that it may be living near you, without you ever noticing. The only clue might be their low, humming ‘ooom-ooom-ooom’ call, heard mainly at night.

Tawny frogmouths are large birds whose plumage is finely streaked and mottled in grey and brown. To avoid detection during the day they sit upright, completely motionless on branches in trees, heads tilted up and eyes closed to slits. In this posture the birds look just like broken branches.

If a frogmouth is disturbed, it may adopt a threatening pose, fluffing out its feathers, showing its wide orange eyes and opening its beak in a wide froglike gape to reveal its yellow throat, hoping to appear intimidating.

At night a frogmouth eats insects like moths, which it may catch in flight around streetlights and garden lights. They also sit on a branch and scan the area for movement, ready to drop to the ground to catch worms, slugs, snails and occasionally, mice and frogs.

You can help look after frogmouths in your area

Our backyards and neighbourhoods can be good homes for frogmouths. Simple things that you do can make a huge difference to Australia’s animals. That’s why the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife is running Backyard Buddies – to give you tips to help.

What is a backyard buddy?

Backyard buddies are the native animals that share our built-up areas, our beaches and waterways, our backyards and our parks. The tawny frogmouth is a backyard buddy.

Backyard buddies are also the local people who value the living things around them, like the tawny frogmouth, and are willing to protect and encourage them by doing a few simple things around their own homes.

So you can be a backyard buddy.

Be a backyard buddy

It’s easy. All you have to do is care... and take a few simple steps.

Step one is to find out what tawny frogmouths do and do not like.

Tawny frogmouths love:

Roost trees – their colouring blends well with the bark of many gum trees.

Safe nesting sites – they build a loose platform of twigs lined with green leaves in branches 5 to 15 metres above the ground.

Eating garden pests – moths, slugs, snails and mice are favourites.

But they don’t like:

Being disturbed – cats and dogs may frighten or attack a frogmouth when it comes to ground to feed at night.

Garden pesticides – which may poison the birds if they eat contaminated insects and slugs.

Trees being removed – which reduces their available habitat.

Be a buddy to the tawny frogmouth

Try to:


Don’t be surprised if:

Find out more about your buddies

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