Tawny Frogmouths

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Lyrika's picture
Tawny Frogmouths


I wanted to share the story of these special little guys, because they were a truly wonderful experience for me.

I got a call late last Sunday afternoon from my wildlife group's phone line, begging me to go pick up a tawny frogmouth that had been found on someone's steps. Nobody else was available and the resident had already had the bird for nearly 24 hours - it hadn't eaten or drunk at all in that time. I was at my grandmother's at the time, having a Sunday roast. I hurried to finish my meal but no more than 20 minutes later I got another call. Could I pick up another tawny in the same suburb? It had been on the ground in someone's yard all day, and they couldn't find any parents.

I rushed off to get them. I picked up the second call first - it was closer. No problemo. The first caller was a different story. No one answered the door of the house and after calling the resident, it was another ten minutes before he drove home. He told me his roommate thought she had stood on the bird, it had been on their steps and it was dark. Why they didn't take the poor thing to the vet, I've no idea. He gave me the bird in a beer carton and told me it's name was Hubert.


I got them home and had a closer look. Both were physically fine, thankfully. Hubert tried to bite me and proceeded to follow me with those giant eyes until I was feeling decidedly creeped out. The second bird, by now named Frankie, hopped out of the carrier and wandered across the floor before settling down. With his eyes and beak closed, he looked like a scruffy pom pom.


Feeding was a challenge - Hubert lunged at me every time I went near and it took a couple of tries before I was game enough to keep my fingers near his beak. Frankie had to have his beak forced open, and still refused to swallow.

The next afternoon, I made a trip to the vet to pick up a pigeon. When I arrived, the vet asked how many birds I could take. I asked what they had, and 10 minutes later was on my way home with a pigeon and yet another juvenile frogmouth - Marshall.


Marshall was an easy bird. He would open his beak when you tapped on it, and when he'd eaten enough, he'd close it. He could also fly - and it is incredibly how quietly they can fly. He was so silent, no one else in the house even noticed he'd moved until I pointed it out.

Hubert perching, Marshall and Frankie below

The next night, Frankie took a turn for the worse. I'd been having difficulty feeding him - he wanted nothing to do with food, and he appeared to be having trouble toileting - his rear was covered in muck. I'd called the vet for advice and was told to wait until morning. I checked them at 3 am, and he was still sitting up. By 6 am, he was gone.

Back down to two we settled into a nice routine. Hubert stopped trying to eat my fingers and Marshall continued to be a feathery angel. They did, however, need somewhere they could fly. Being let out in my living room really wasn't doing the trick. Tawnies are lazy birds at the best of times, even more so when meals are delivered, but they need the space to fly if they wish to. Lucky for me, another carer had four juvenile tawnies of her own in a large aviary and was happy to take my little lads. They are now hanging out with all their new buddies, awaiting the day they are big enough to be released.

Anyway, sorry for the looooong post, but these guys were very special for me - a truly unique opportunity to meet a very unusual bird.

Wanda's picture

Great photos and I love your little pom poms. They are great birds.

Araminta's picture

Thanks for doing such a great job,looking after wildlife!!! Great photos, great story! We used to watch a Tawny every night, it sat on the gutter,and from time to time it dived down to catch something. It wasn't shy, and we could go outside and get close to watch it. But, one morning it was sitting on the doormat. It looked at us, as if it was saying,hey, I need help! When I picked it up, to take to the vet, I could feel a large, rather hard eggshaped lump on the tummy.(I thought it might be eggbound,when the egg gets stuck, and won't come out)? But the vet decided,it was a big tumor, so the bird had to be put down. We were rather sad about that. Anyway,I'm not so sure about vets, and their diagnosis,I have come across a number of false verdicts,most are not familiar with native animals. You get things like,calling wildlife carers,can you pick up this small Ringtail, To find, the small Ringtail to be a big, fat Brushtail... So, I'm not that sure anymore, if it was a tumor or not.


birdie's picture

Lovely story Lyrika and really cute pompoms!!! Thanks for taking the time to share it with us and for your good work.

Sunshine Coast Queensland

Lyrika's picture

Thank you, guys.

And Araminta don't even get me started on some vets. I had a vet call me a few weeks ago asking me to come pick up a crested pigeon. When I got there, I was given a brown cuckoo dove. It baffles me how they could make that mistake.

Unfortunately it also means some birds are passed on from the vets with 'no obvious injuries' when they are actually injured. Like a galah with a broken beak, and an oriole with a broken collarbone.

That said, some of the other vets I've seen have been lovely people who will happily work overtime to look at natives. It's just a few who aren't really interested in the wildlife.

Birdgirl2009's picture

Thanks so much for sharing this lovely story and photos. I hope the little ones do well. I am checking a nest once a week to see if I can glimpse any babies (when no-one is in the park so I don't give the position of the nest away)

Windhover's picture

Nice story and pics. Don't forget that most vets are trained in helping domestic animals not natives and will not necessarily know too much. Shame but you get that. Some out in Penrith are of Sydney are pretty good though.

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