Tawny Frogmouths Filling their Bellies on Creepy-Crawlies
Warm summer nights are alive with bugs, including the little loved cockroach, racing around your verandah.
What makes our skin crawl makes another one’s tummy rumble. The elusive Tawny Frogmouth is now fattening up for winter, when many insects hibernate.
A frogmouth might look like an owl at first sight, but it is an entirely different kind of bird.
Frogmouths have wide, flat beaks, while that of an owl is narrow and more hooked. Owls have strong feet with powerful talons, while the feet of Tawny Frogmouths are weak.
They use their beaks to catch the insects such as cicadas and beetles and the occasional mouse, rat or frog. Unlike the owls, your Tawny Frogmouth is also a poor flyer. It will just sit quietly and wait for its prey to approach, swoop down on it and return to its perch.
It is very important for your Tawny Frogmouths to eat as much as they can during these few months of plenty.
In winter, their food supply will shrink so much that they spend much of their days and nights in torpor. Torpor is a state similar to hibernation where heart-rate and metabolism slow down significantly to save energy.
Tawny Frogmouths love mature trees to roost in during the day. Coarse and dark-barked stringybark trees are favourites, because they make a snoozing frogmouth almost invisible. Where there’s one there’s usually two. Frogmouths mate for life and will raise young every year. Both parents sit on the eggs, and both will feed the chicks.
You may have a family of Tawny Frogmouths living in your backyard without ever seeing them! Their camouflage makes them look like part of the tree, and chances are you hear them more than you see them. Have a listen to the call of the Tawny Frogmouth. If you hear this call at night you have frogmouth buddies!
Have a close look – which side of the tree is your frogmouth snuggling up to? On cooler days and particularly in autumn and winter they will pick a sunny spot on the northern side, now in summer they may be choosing a south or west facing spot.
You can help your Tawny Frogmouths get the most out of summer and fatten up well for winter. Avoid using pesticides or snail baits where frogmouths feed, as they love to eat snails, slugs and moths.
Did That Branch Just Wink at Me?!
It's just starting to cool off a little in the evenings, making it perfect weather for an evening stroll. During your wander you may see many nocturnal animals stirring from their daytime slumber, especially if you take a torch along. Keep an eye out for the elusive Tawny Frogmouth, as dusk is one of the best times to spot them.
It's a good time to see Tawny Frogmouths all over Australia in Winter because they'll be busy gorging themselves on bugs, before the insects start hibernating.
Look out for them in the evenings, when they're flying and calling. Click to listen to the Tawny Frogmouth calling here.
During the day their wonderfully designed feathers blend into the tree bark, making it very tricky to spot them. A Tawny Frogmouth's feathers are not its only unusual feature—it also has a very large, wide beak. This is what gives them the name of 'Frogmouth'. Watching the chicks calling out for food when their mum or dad appears can be quite a funny sight!
These birds love to catch unsuspecting insects in the night air. They also eat slugs and snails and even small mammals such as mice. They are a great animal to have in your backyard because while you're sleeping, they are busy keeping down the numbers of pesky critters in your garden.
Tawny Frogmouths are very romantic birds because they like to mate for life. The cute couple will usually lay two eggs together every year. Mum and dad will take it in turns to sit on the eggs to keep them warm until they hatch.
Although Tawny Frogmouths hunt at night like owls, they are actually both quite different. Owls have strong feet which they use to catch their food, whereas the Tawny Frogmouth has a much bigger and stronger beak that helps it grab its prey. So owls are feet first and Frogmouths head first!
Owls also fly around looking for their dinner but the Tawny Frogmouth is quite happy sitting and waiting until they spot something moving, and then they swoop.
If the Frogmouth feels scared or startled, they will put their head straight up in the air and close their eyes. To the casual glance, they will look just like a branch stump on a tree. With their eyes shut they hope that whatever scared them won't be able to see them, and will then disappear.
So if you're out looking for the Tawny Frogmouth, try not to startle them, or you will have a hard time finding them again!
When you're driving at night, make sure you slow down in bushland areas or near big trees because many nocturnal animals accidentally wander onto roads. The Tawny Frogmouth has an unfortunate habit of flying in front of cars when insects become lit up in the headlights. Find the number of your nearest wildlife carer group here,write down the number and keep it in the glove box of your car.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Tawny Frogmouth is often incorrectly called the Mopoke because people may hear the night call of 'mopoke, mopoke' and knowing there are Frogmouths in the area, assume it must be them. But this call belongs to the Southern Boobook Owl! The Tawny Frogmouth's call is more of an 'oom, oom, oom'.