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Byron Shire
June 1, 2023

Our tawny frogmouth family nest

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Tawny frogmouths. Photo James Maitland

James Maitland

On our way home, we pass through a stand of flooded gums (Eucalyptus grandis) and tallowwood (Eucalyptus microcorys) trees. Towards the end of September 2020, in one of these tallowwood trees, on a branch above our easement road, we noticed a small tawny frogmouth nest of loose sticks piled together. The two adults took turns sitting on the nest while the other went hunting.

Pest specialists

Tawny frogmouths are carnivorous and are considered to be among Australia’s most effective pest-control birds, as their diet consists largely of species regarded as vermin or pests in houses, farms, and gardens.

Initially, we thought there was only one chick in the nest, but then Yumi spotted another tail overhanging the nest, so we knew there were at least two. The clutch size of the tawny frogmouth is one to three eggs.

Tawny frogmouths form partnerships for life, and once established, pairs usually stay in the same territory for a decade or more.

As days and weeks passed by, we watched the chicks grow larger, until one day in late October we noticed that the nest had disintegrated and the two chicks were sitting on the branch alongside their parents.

By the end of November, the birds had flown away and we thought that was the last we’d see of them. Then, a week before Christmas, they returned to visit us near our house. What a delight to see both chicks and their parents sitting in our large Poinciana tree (Delonix regia) outside our study area.

Tawny frogmouth chicks previously rescued by WIRES.

Under threat

Tawny frogmouths face a number of threats from human activities and pets.

They are often killed or injured on rural roads during feeding, as they fly in front of cars when chasing insects illuminated in the beam of the headlights.

Large-scale land clearing of eucalypt trees and intense bushfires are serious threats to their populations, as they tend not to move to other areas if their homes are destroyed.

House cats are the most significant introduced predator of the Tawny Frogmouth, but dogs and foxes are known to also occasionally kill the birds. When tawny frogmouths pounce to catch prey on the ground, they are slow to return to flight and vulnerable to attack from these predators.

Wildlife rescue

WIRES Northern Rivers rescues wildlife including tawny frogmouths. A 24-hour hotline, 6628 1898, is for all rescue, advice or membership calls in the Northern Rivers. Join WIRES and you can learn to be a wildlife rescuer.

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