Tawny Frogmouth

First Tawny Frogmouth Chick for Brevard Zoo

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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.

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4_adult tawny frogmouthPhoto Credits: Brevard Zoo

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.

Cotswold Wildlife Park Keeper Hand-rears The "Skunk of The Air"

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This striking Tawny Frogmouth chick is being hand-reared by Bird keeper Jade Stott at Cotswold Wildlife Park. She took on the role of surrogate mother to the beautiful baby bird when, unfortunately, the breeding adults didn't prove to be the most capable of parents. To give it the greatest chance of survival, the Bird section decided to hand-rear the chick.

It is the first time Jade has hand-reared this particular species and she has dedicated the last month to raising the tiny chick at home. It was no small task as the newborn required twenty-four hour care in those precious early days and feeds every two hours. The youngster has been soley dependent on Jade for survival. The Park’s Bird section are delighted with the blossoming healthy chick, who is growing day-by-day thanks to Jade’s dedicated parenting skills. Weighing just 21 grams when it hatched on 4th June 2014, the fluffy chick now weighs 231 grams and has made quite an impression on its surrogate mother.





Jade Stott said: "Hand-rearing the Tawny Frogmouth has been a massive learning curve. Having a tiny chick absolutely dependent on you is a little daunting at first, but the rewards of seeing it grow and develop its own cheeky character are more than enough payback for the sleepless nights. I'm definitely a proud mother hen!"

Jade has named the chick Murray, but it is too early to determine the sex of the bird. Visitors can see the chick in the Park’s specialist incubation room (next to the Penguin enclosure) where it will remain for a few more weeks.

Tawny Frogmouths (Podargus strigoides) are a fascinating species but little is known about their behaviour. Professor Gisela Kaplan, who teaches animal behaviour at the University of New England in Australia, is the author of the most comprehensive single study* ever conducted about these intriguing and endearing birds. Her ten year project unearthed completely new and unexpected findings. She learnt that Tawny Frogmouths are very affectionate and pair for life. When a partner dies, the mate will stay with it for days and will grieve with a high trill for hours on end. The study also uncovered another side to these birds. Gisela describes them as “skunks of the air” as they can send out a foul smell with enormous force over a wide area, perhaps to ward off snakes and big lizards that eat their eggs and chicks. Frogmouths also scream like prowling Tomcats when distressed, fight with lightning speed and defend nest sites from reptilian predators by mobbing and spraying pungent faeces at these dangerous opponents. Even their eye colour changes when threatened by a rival. The irises of the males’ eye turn from yellow to red before they attack any male or female that attempts to enter their territory.

Watch a Tawny Frogmouth Grow at St. Louis Zoo

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On November 2, a fluffy Tawny Frogmouth chick hatched at St. Louis Zoo! This strange and wonderful bird has grown a lot over the course of its first month, and is doing well under the care of keepers and its parents. 

Says Matt Schamberger, keeper of birds at the zoo, "Our goal is to always have the parents rear their own birds, but this pair is a pair of first-time parents and often times the learning curve is pretty steep, so we try to help out the parents if we can."

The Saint Louis Zoo received the chick's parents as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) for this species. An SSP coordinates breeding and conservation of a species between AZA accredited zoos, with the goal of maintaining healthy genetic diversity. 

"The tawny frogmouth population in the United States is about 125 birds in zoos around the United States," Michael Macek, curator of birds explains. "And what we're trying to do is maintain genetic diversity in the population." 

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4 tawnyPhoto credits: St. Louis Zoo / Michael Macek (2, 3); Matt Schamberger (4, 6, 7) 

Watch the chick develop over the course of a month:


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Tawny Frogmouth Chick Emerges at Woodland Park Zoo

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Last week Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle welcomed a fluffy white Tawny Frogmouth chick. One day after its birth, the little chick weighed in at just over half an ounce. While the parents have been doing an excellent job caring for it thus far, keepers will keep a close eye on the chick's development and provide the family with additional food if they aren't satisfied with its progress.

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Photo credits: Ryan Hawk / Woodland Park Zoo

The chick's parents are held off exhibit at as part of a nationwide breeding program for Tawny Frogmouths. Woodland Park coordinates this Species Survival Plan for the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, which includes 125 individuals at 48 facilities. The zoo is also home to a second breeding pair and is known for having a great track record of breeding this species. In fact, this chick's parents have another fertile egg in their nest which keepers expect to hatch soon.

Tawny Frogmouths are native to the Australasia region and are found on the Australian mainland, Tasmania and New Guinea. They are nocturnal carnivores that feed primarily on insects and other small prey. While adults have dark mottled coats to bled into tree bark, young are born fluffy and white as you can see with this little chick. When full grown this little chick will weigh around one and a half pounds.

Taronga's Tiny New Tawny Rescue Had Taken Tumble From a Tree


Nurses at Taronga Zoo’s Wildlife Hospital have been kept busy by the arrival of this Tawny Frogmouth. The little chick was brought in after it fell out of a tree, and was attacked by Magpies on the ground. Luckily, it was picked up by passers-by. This young bird is in good health, and Taronga nurses are making sure it’s being kept safe and warm in a nest made out of cloth.


Photo credit: Taronga Zoo

Orphan Tawny Frogmouth Chicks Rescued in Dundas!

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High winds in Australia swept these two Tawny Frogmouth chicks from their nest in Dundas. Lucky for them, they landed in someone's backyard who notified Taronga Zoo and local wildlife center staff. 

Distantly related to owls, Tawny Frogmouths also hunt at night but feed almost exclusively on insects. Their fluffy, mottled feathers provide superb camouflage, which protects them from predators. Camouflage also allows them to conserve energy when hunting their 6-legged prey as they just let it crawl to them!

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Tawny Frogmouth Chick Taronga Zoo 2

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Tawny Frogmouth Chicks Are Not Impressed.

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On July 9th and 11th, the Brookfield Zoo welcomed two Tawny Frogmouth chicks. Often mistaken for owls, these Australian birds also hunt at night, but prefer to relax and let their prey come to them, sometimes literally waiting for insects to crawl onto their feathers before snacking.

For reasons unknown, these chicks' parents—Eunice, who is on loan from Riverbanks Zoo in South Carolina, and Gullet, who is from SeaWorld Orlando—abandoned the nest about halfway during the incubation period. To give the unborn chicks a chance at life, staff pulled the eggs and placed them in an incubator. Once the eggs hatched, they received round-the-clock care. Now at 3 weeks old, they have grown, are eating well, and appear to have a bright future ahead of them.

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Tawny Frogmouth Feeding Brookfield Zoo

The pairing of the adults was based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Tawny Frogmouth Species Survival Plan (SSP). An SSP is a cooperative population management and conservation program for select species in accredited AZA zoos and aquariums. Each SSP manages the breeding of a species to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. Until the chicks are a little older, they will remain off exhibit while being cared for by Animal Programs staff. Guests are able to see the adult pair in the zoo’s Feathers and Scales building. The species is monogamous.

Tawny Frogmouth Brookfield Zoo 3Photo credits: Brookfield Zoo

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Spindly but Fluffy: Tawny Frogmouths for San Antonio


These Tawny Frogmouth chicks were hatched at the San Antonio Zoo on April 24th and 26th 2011. The San Antonio Zoo has exhibited these secretive natives of Australia for over 30 years. Their extraordinary large eyes and mouth aid them in catching prey at night. They wait patiently in the branches of trees for prey, such as insects or mice, to wander by and quietly flutter down upon their unsuspecting meal. Each chick that hatches is the result of cooperative breeding programs between AZA (Association of Zoos & Aquariums) and zoos aimed at ensuring population viability, inspiring the public and promoting conservation in the wild.


Photo credits: San Antonio Zoo

A Peculiarly Wonderful Ball of Fluff

Longtime ZooBorns readers (or book owners!) will be no strangers to the peculiarly wonderful balls of fluff that are baby Tawny Frogmouth chicks. This little bird was born at Australia's Adelaide Zoo in October. The parents are both hand raised and it is unusual for hand raised birds to successfully raise their own young.  However these parents are doing a great job caring for the chick and are also feeding it well, with minimal supplementary feeding from the keepers. The chick weighed only 22 grams at birth (.8 ounces!) but is now a few months old and weighing in at 197 grams and can be seen flying around the exhibit but still staying close to its parents.

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Tawny frogmouth chick adelaide zoo 1b

Don't miss this video which shows the chick at an even younger age.

Tawny Frogmouths are found throughout the Australian mainland, Tasmania and southern Papua New Guinea. They are often hard to spot within the trees as they camouflage so well. The Zoo is currently holding a naming contest for the chick. Vote today!