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Tawny Frogmouth orphans

Finding a baby bird on the ground is something that elicits in most of us a desire to help. Every year in Spring a number of young tawny frogmouths are found on the ground by people passing by and handed in to vets. These birds fall into two categories.

1. Little nestlings that look like balls of fluff. Their feathers are downy and they have not yet grown a tail. They have probably been blown out of the nest or fallen while being a bit too adventurous. On the ground they are defenceless. If the nest is visible and reachable the baby bird can be placed back in it, but usually the nest is high in the tree tops and the safest bet is to take the baby bird to a vet or bird carer.

2. Fledglings are young birds who are learning to fly under parental guidance but sometimes don't make it back to the nest. It is very likely that the parents are nearby and if you can place the bird on a tree branch where is is safe from predators, especially cats, the parent birds will usually continue their supervision and when the bird is capable it will resume its place in the nest. As tawnies are night birds the parents will not return to feed the fledgling till nightfall. So the ideal situation is for you or someone to monitor the situation and satisfy yourself that the family is re-united. If that doesn't happen and the young bird seems not to be coping, then handing it in to a vet is probably the best bet.

Orphaned by the storm


When wild birds are handed in to vets they are, in turn, passed on to bird carers such as Sandra Bayley in St John's Wood who raised the tawnies photographed here by Mark Crocker.

Tawny Frogmouth
Photo: Mark Crocker

Once past the nestling stage they go into a large flight aviary where they are given opportunities to catch live food in preparation for their release. For this she purchases woodies (bush cockroaches), meal worms, beetles and mice. This is the best we can do as human foster parents but it can never match the parenting that can be provided by the parent birds. So the best outcome for a bird that has been separated from its parents is always to be given every chance to be re-united with its parents.

Having said that, tawnies are wonderful birds and a joy to raise. When a new bird comes in it usually just snuggles in to one of the others and goes to sleep. Little ones are comforted by the older ones and they form a happy family together until it is time for their release to the wild.

Adult tawnies also come into care. Sometimes they are concussed after being hit by a car and are found sitting on or by the road. They are fed and given protection until they recover. They need to be returned to the location where they were found so if you hand in such a bird be sure to leave the the address with the vet. There are hundreds of wild birds in care in Brisbane at any time and new carers are very welcome to help shoulder the load. If you are interested in helping or just have a question about tawnies feel free to ring Sandra on 33662393.

Tawny


Tawny Frogmouth
Photo: Mark Crocker

Tawny


Tawny Frogmouth
Photo: Mark Crocker

Tawny


Tawny Frogmouth
Photo: Mark Crocker

Three Tawnies


Tawny Frogmouth
Photo: Mark Crocker

Tawny Fluffball


Tawny Frogmouth
Photo: Mark Crocker

Tawny fluffball in the hand


Tawny Frogmouth
Photo: Mark Crocker

Four Tawnies


Tawny Frogmouth
Photo: Mark Crocker

Wikipedia:


The Tawny Frogmouth, Podargus strigoides, is an Australian variety of frogmouth, a type of bird found throughout the Australian mainland, Tasmania and southern New Guinea. The Tawny Frogmouth is often thought to be an owl.

Males and females look alike, and are 3550 cm long. They have yellow eyes and a wide beak topped with a tuft of bristly feathers. They make loud clacking sounds with their beaks and emit a reverberating booming call.

Owls fly around at night hunting food, but Tawny Frogmouths generally remain sitting very still on a low perch, and wait for food to come to them. They catch prey with their beaks, and sometimes drop from their perch onto the prey on the ground.

Tawny Frogmouths hunt at night and spend the day roosting on a dead log or tree branch close to the tree trunk. Their camouflage is excellent staying very still and upright, they look just like part of the branch.

The Tawny Frogmouth feeds on rats, mice, cicadas, beetles, frogs and other small prey. They catch their prey with their beaks rather than with their talons, another way in which they are different from owls.

Tawny Frogmouth pairs stay together until one of the pair dies. They breed from August to December. They usually use the same nest each year, and must make repairs to their loose, untidy platforms of sticks. After mating with the male, the female lays two or three eggs onto a lining of green leaves in the nest.

Both male and female take turns sitting on the eggs to incubate them until they hatch about 30 days later. Both parents help feed the chicks.

The chicks move to the edge of the nest and direct their droppings over the edge. About 25 days after hatching, the chicks are ready to leave the nest and lead their own lives.

Feedback and more Tawny tips


Brian Hallinan agve us the following tips to add to the story above:

1. Regarding leaving your address with the vet, our experience is that some vets do not record this and some vets may not understand how important it is that all wild life should be released back into the area where they were found. This is more important with the territorial species but even the Tawny can benefit from this procedure.

2. Especially with nestlings blown out of the nest, we have had great success by creating a fake nest out of a pot plant and hanging it on an accessible branch of the subject tree. We have often observed the parent feeding the young in the new nest.

3. When preparing Tawny Frogmouths for self feeding, it has proven most successful to place a solar garden light in the middle of the floor, which attracts moths and gnats, to the delight of the Tawnys.