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.

Tawny frogmouth in the arms of a gum tree.
In the arms of mother nature. (photo credit Vicki Terry Burnett).

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.

Spot the tawny frogmouth.
Perfect alignment. (by Vicki Terry Burnett

The frogmouth’s ability  to simulate a jagged, broken branch has two benefits. Firstly, aggressive birds like currawongs are unlikely to spot it.

Towny frogmouth ptetending to be a branch.
Go away, I’m just a branch! (photo by Wanda Optland)

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.

Frogmouth devouring a silvereye.
Oh dear me, a bad mistake little silvereye. (Photo credit Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve)

A newspaper illustration from 1950 proves that  the frogmouth has always been an opportunistic, daylight feeder.

Tawny frogmouth dining on a small bird.

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!

Nesting in a garden pot.
This will do! (photo credit Catherine McKinlay)

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.

Tawny frogmouth at Greens Beach in Tasmania
Poor little fellow. (Photo by Robyn McConachy)

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?

Surely inspired by frogmouth chicks.

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.


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;

A bewhiskered frogmouth in it's gum tree.

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.

A snoozing tawny frogmouth.

The eyes have it!

Sleep well little fellow.


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.

Tawny frogmouth with nesting material

Good luck Froggy.

More on these wonderful birds from the Australian Museum.

  1. Love your frogmouths

  2. The Tawny Frogmouth is a wonderful master of disguise. Ingenious too in taking advantage of any easy lunch

  3. Such amazing and unique birds. They have some rather eerie calls too. We really are fortunate in Australia to have such a wonderful variety.

  4. Thanks for sharing this. Living in Canada I have never seen anything like this. And I doubt I ever will! They are really amazing.

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