Reader Nick sends us two pictures of one of my favorite birds: the tawny frogmouth (Podargus strigoides), found in Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea.
I lived in Australia for 8 years and managed to take some pictures of the wildlife there. I was lucky to live and travel in areas where there was some amazing wildlife around and was able to capture some fantastic photos. I have many but would like to just start with these two.
Early one morning while I was getting ready for work, I noticed this lump on a palm tree frond. Because of the area we were living in, it could have been anything, for we were normally visited by all kinds of birds and there were lots of flying foxes around. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that it was a Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides). These birds are rather difficult to spot normally because they stick to certain types of trees or logs that work well with their defences, and palm trees normally aren’t one. As you can see from the picture, their camouflage doesn’t work that well.
The first picture shows the bird just sitting there and the second shows the typical defence position.
I have to admit to getting lucky here. The bird did seem rather sensitive to any noise, so opening the sliding door to our deck was difficult without making any noise. Once I took the shot it immediately went into defence mode, older DSLRs not being the most quiet cameras in the world. [Click to enlarge; note that you’re seeing the bird’s head, not its butt!]
Here’s a YouTube video, which I think I’ve posted before, of some captive frogmouths undergoing rehabilitation.
They have a morphology convergent with that of owls, though frogmouths are largely insectivores. Wikipedia notes the differences:
Tawny Frogmouths and owls both have anisodactyl feet – meaning that one toe is facing backwards and the other three face forwards. However, owls’ feet are much stronger than the feet of the Tawny Frogmouth as owls use their feet to catch their prey. Owls are also able to swing one of their toes around to the back (with a unique flexible joint) to get a better grip on their prey. Tawny Frogmouths have fairly weak feet as they use their beaks to catch their prey. Owls eat small mammals, like mice and rats, so their bones are shorter and stronger than those of Tawny Frogmouths which usually hunt smaller prey. Tawny Frogmouths typically wait for their prey to come to them, only rarely hunting on the wing like owls.