Tawny Frogmouths

Frogmouths have nested at my local park for as long as I have lived here. There are a few nest sites, all in Ironbarks, and normally close to the creek. Only one site is not near the creek, and I suspect this is only used when the population is high and nesting sites are hard to come by.

The nests themselves are flimsy; a handful of sticks placed across a horizontal fork in the branch. The fork has to be fairly close to the trunk.

Frogmouths are famous for their camouflage. They really do look like stumps, especially when they adopt that head-up pose.

The local pair lost their previous site a few months back when the branch broke off in a storm. I haven’t seen the new nest yet. I have seen an adult on several nights, so it must be close.

People think Frogmouths are owls, because they’re active at night. They’re actually nightjars. Owls are genuine raptors who catch their prey in their talons. Nightjars use only their beaks to catch prey. If you have a close look at a frogmouth, you’ll notice its beak is blunt and very wide - hence the name. When they open their beaks it’s a large trap.

Frogmouths eat insects, normally catching moths and larger insects in the air. However, they will take mice or skinks. To do this, they lurk, Kookaburra-like, on branches and watch for movement on the ground. Then they pounce.

The ones in our area have developed a neat trick. The powerlines on our street have a street light every second pole. The frogmouths sit on the pole without a street light, then fly along the power line, past the street light and land on the next pole.

It took me a while to figure out what they were doing. The street light attracts moths, so the frogmouth flies through the cloud of moths, catching one as it passes, then perches on the next pole and eats the moth. Then it repeats the journey the other way.

Their call is a soft mesmerising "oom-oom-oom", or "woom-woom-woom" sound. Next time you're walking in the park at night, keep an ear out.