Spot the tawny frogmouths

September 1, 2014 • 11:20 am

Yes, there are two of them here. From Frans de Waal’s public Facebook photos, via reader Steve. There are two birds here: a remarkable example of camouflage:

Tawny frogmouths

This species (Podargus strigoides), a denizen of Australia and Tasmania, is famous for camouflaging itself and closing its eyes. As Wikipedia notes:

One of the best examples of cryptic plumage and mimicry in Australian birds is seen in the tawny frogmouth who perch low on tree branches during the day camouflaged as part of the tree. Their silvery-grey plumage patterned with white, black, and brown streaks and mottles allows them to freeze into the form of a broken tree branch and become practically invisible in broad daylight.  The tawny frogmouth will often choose a broken part of a tree branch and perch upon it with its head thrust upwards at an acute angle using its very large, broad beak to emphasise the resemblance. Often a pair will sit together and point their heads upwards, only breaking cover if approached closely to take flight or warn off predators. When threatened, adult tawny frogmouths will make an alarm call that signals to chicks to remain silent and immobile ensuring that the natural camouflage provided by the plumage is not broken.


28 thoughts on “Spot the tawny frogmouths

  1. Somewhat easier to find than the Pika was but nevertheless a fantastic example of camouflage. It’s interesting how the birds behaviour is key to the effectiveness of the camouflage not just by remaining still but also by choosing a suitable perch and then adopting the right posture.

  2. I saw the first guy right away but I never would have seen the second if Jerry had not mentioned there are two!

  3. I see them, but the camouflage is amazing! I saw them straight away, but before I read the article I thought they were branches that looked like lizards, not frogs that looked like branches.

  4. A minor quibble, ‘a denizen of Australia and Tasmania’… Last time I looked, Tasmania is part of Australia!

      1. I’m never sure if Tasmanians want to be part of Australia or not. They get pretty pissed off when we leave them off the map though.

    1. Imagine trying to spot them if the photo were at the range typically used in the “Spot the Nightjar” photos.

  5. Ornithology note: New World potoos look very similar and pose in exactly the same way to hide themselves, but the two families aren’t all that closely related. Convergence again.

  6. Actually, knowing what they look like it’s quite obvious where they are. I must say, however, they look like something out of The Dark Crystal.

    1. Here’s a question for all you bird-brains:) David Attenborough had this remarkable African bird on his show. It was called a something-bill (not a spoonbill). The top beak curved down around the bottom beak at the front. The meter-high critter looked very prehistoric. I can’t for the life of me remember its name, but it began with an S.

        1. YES!! Thank you so much. I knew it was an easy S-word, but just couldn’t think of it. Doesn’t look anything like a shoe to me, but what a very prehistoric-looking critter it is! Looks fairly directly descended from the pterydactyl. I’ve been on safari in Tanzani and Kenya and never even heard this guy mentioned.

          1. Yeah, when you said prehistoric looking, name starts with an S, and about 1 meter tall there weren’t any other birds I could of that even came close. My second guess was going to be some sort of hornbill.

    2. I thought it looked awfully familiar. Thanks for preventing me from thinking I was going crazy. Maybe it’s time for Prof Ceiling Cat to get himself an intern to keep track of his postings. I’m sure there’d be plenty of volunteers. (Just kidding, you’re doing a great job Jerry and we all very much appreciate all the work you put into this website.)

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