Can any bird or animal camoflague itself as successfully as the Australian Tawny Frogmouth? They are truly astonishing.
Here in the Blue Mountains of NSW they are quite common. Mind you, the only way I can find them in my Blackheath garden is to look for the white splashes of their droppings below mature eucalypts. Or try to trace the location of their strange, low ‘hooting’.
Below is one of my favourite images in nature , a frogmouth cradled in the ‘arms’ of a gum tree. My thanks to Vicki Burnett for allowing me to share this.
Here is another of Vicki’s amazing photographs. Hard to spot eh? I still don’t understand how they manage to match the colours of different barks.
The frogmouth’s ability to simulate a jagged, broken branch has two benefits. Firstly, aggressive birds like currawongs are unlikely to spot it.
The other benefit is a bit creepy. Tiny birds occasionally perch on the ‘branch’ by mistake. Now although frogmouths hunt at night for frogs, moths and other delicacies, a free lunch never goes astray. If some unfortunate individual should land on a frogmouth’s head it may rouse from its daytime slumber, open that wide mouth and…..gulp!
When the photo below was posted to an on-line bird site, people found it hard to believe what they were seeing. But it was true; a sweet little silvereye being devoured by dead branch that came to life.
A newspaper illustration from 1950 proves that the frogmouth has always been an opportunistic, daylight feeder.
After I first posted this story a lady contacted me about a frogmouth that nested on a pot on her deck. So much for my bit about them choosing a site high in a gum tree. Must have been a young apprentice!
The photo below was taken by my sister at Greens Beach in northern Tasmania. The bird was used to sleeping in a neighbour’s trees, but when several were cut down it became disoriented. My brother-in-law went out intending to water the garden, but was stopped in his tracks.
Frogmouth chicks have their own version of camoflague. They pretend to be children’s fluffy toys. remember those wide eyed critters from the sixties called Gonks?
It is still possible to look up and spot frogmouths, even in the heart of Sydney. However, in the most recent national survey of Australian birds even the iconic kookaburra was in decline. Foxes, cats, and loss of habitat due to development are all taking their toll. A visit to the Angel Arcade off Sydney’s Martin Place is a beautiful, but sad reminder of what has already been lost. Sydney’s Lost Birds.
CHAPTER TWO – THE GUMS, WINTER 2020
We hadn’t seen or heard tawny frogmouths here at The Gums for years. There had been a dreadful incident when currawongs harassed a nesting bird and stole its protein rich eggs. But recently I heard that familiar call again. I found an old pair of binoculars and started a search.
At last, there it was, in the top corner of the garden;
Look, same bird, same spot, but very different weather. A Blue Mountains mist.
Oh my word, poor thing seems too tired to even sit upright.
The eyes have it!
Wow, could that twig from my Japanese maple mean there is a partner somewhere….and a nest? He (or she) must have run out of time to put it in place before the sun came up.
Good luck Froggy.
More on these wonderful birds from the Australian Museum.