A Tawny Frogmouth chick, unofficially known as “Furby,” hatched at Brevard Zoo on May 28. Furby is the first member of its species to hatch at the Melbourne, Florida zoo.
Furby’s parents, Nathan and Hotdog, had yet to successfully hatch and rear a chick at the facility. Therefore, Furby is being hand-reared by animal care staff. The sex is unknown at this time.
The Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) is a species of frogmouth native to Australia and is found throughout the Australian mainland and Tasmania. They are bigheaded stocky birds often mistaken for Owls due to their nocturnal habits and similar color.
Tawny Frogmouths can measure from 34 to 53 cm (13 to 21 in) long. Weights have been recorded of up to 680 g (1.50 lb) in the wild (perhaps more in captivity) but these are exceptionally high.
Tawny Frogmouths and Owls both have mottled patterns, wide eyes, and anisodactyl feet. However, Owls possess strong legs, powerful talons, and toes with a unique flexible joint as they use their feet to catch prey. Tawny Frogmouths prefer to catch their prey with their beaks and have fairly weak feet. They also roost out in the open relying on camouflage for defense and build their nests in tree forks, whereas Owls roost hidden in thick foliage and build their nests in tree hollows. Tawny Frogmouths have wide, forward facing beaks for catching insects, and Owls have narrow downwards facing beaks used to tear prey apart. The eyes of Tawny Frogmouths are to the side of the face while the eyes of Owls are fully forward on the face. Furthermore, Owls have full or partial face discs and large asymmetrical ears while tawny frogmouths do not.
Tawny Frogmouths are carnivorous and considered to be among Australia's most effective pest control birds, as their diet consists largely of species regarded as vermin/pests in houses, farms, and gardens. The bulk of their diet is composed of large nocturnal insects such as moths, as well as spiders, worms, slugs, and snails. Their diet also includes a variety of bugs, beetles, wasps, ants, centipedes, millipedes, and scorpions. Large numbers of invertebrates are consumed in order to make up sufficient biomass, and small mammals, reptiles, frogs and birds are also eaten.
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.
The breeding season of Tawny Frogmouths is from August to December, however individuals in arid areas are known to breed in response to heavy rains. Males and females share in the building of nests by collecting twigs and mouthfuls of leaves and dropping them into position. Nests are usually placed on horizontal forked tree branches.
The clutch size is one to three eggs. Both sexes share incubation of the eggs during the night, and during the day, males incubate the eggs. For the duration of the incubation period, the nest is rarely left unattended. One partner will roost on a nearby branch and provide food for the brooding partner. Once hatched, both parents cooperate in the supply of food to the young. The fledging period is 25 – 35 days, during which they develop half their adult mass.
The Tawny Frogmouth is classified as "Least Concern" on the IUCN Red List due to their widespread distribution. However, there are a number of ongoing threats to the health of the population. Many birds and mammalian carnivores are known to prey upon them.
They also face a number of threats from human activities and pets. Tawny Frogmouths are often killed or injured on rural roads during feeding as they fly in front of cars when chasing insects illuminated in the beam of the headlights. As they have adapted to live in close proximity to human populations, Tawny Frogmouths are also at high risk of exposure to pesticides.