Tawny Frogmouth Close Call

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Devster's picture
Tawny Frogmouth Close Call

My wife was driving home right on dark when all of a sudden this Tawny Frogmouth is in the middle of the road. She straddles it but hears a bump underneath the car. As she pulls over and hops out another car goes over it. Fearing its hurt she runs over & tries to pick it up. Frighten, dazed and maybe injured it tries to fly but just flaps about not able to take off or get out of the way of oncoming traffic.

Bravely she picks it up, holding it as gently as she can fearing it has a broken wing or something worse and puts it on the passenger floor, cover him up with a blanket so he calms down.

I was out getting dinner when she called and asked me how long I was going to be and that she had something for me to have a look at.

I turned to my mate and said I bet its a Tawny Frogmouth (As they hang around our house from time to time). When I got home about 2 minutes later I was astounded to see that it was indeed a Tawny Frogmouth but did not expect it to be sitting on the floor of our car. 

By this time he had wiggled his way out of the blanket and looked at me if to say "where the hell am I"

I couldn't see any visible signs of injury and he seemed to be alert but dazed so I just let him sit in the car for a while longer in the dark to let him get his composure.

10 min later I came back and he was on the dash board looking out. So I said to my wife lets get him out, have a proper look as see what the verdict was. Well he was flapping around just fine. She wanted to give him some mince and I said the less interaction we have with him the better.  We took him outside, sat him on a bench and off he flew into the night sky.

Thats one tough and lucky little bird.

I really hoped we did the right thing and I wondered afterwards if we should have let him go back where she found him as its about a 5 minute drive away from our place. Whats your thoughts and please don't slam us if we did the wrong thing. We will just know for next time.


dwatsonbb's picture

Hi Devster, firstly everything your wife did is correct, stopping, containining and keeping the bird warm and in the dark (even if it did get out from under the blanket). By the sounds of it your Tawny was most probably concussed, and this can take anywhere from a few minutes to many many hours to resolve, with many and varied symptoms. Any wild creature which is easily caught has a problem, and advice should be sought, if at all possible. Any bird which is the victim of an animal attack will need a visit to a vet for antibiotics, as most will die from secondary infection without them.

Releasing the bird as close to where it is found is the best, but if only 5 minutes away, you are probably still within or very close to it's home range.

We do wildlife rescue, and I have been fortunate enough (not so lucky for the birds) to be involved in similar situations. It is preferable to seek advice from wildlife experts (a link below). With birds which I believe are concussed, usualy hold overnight in a covered box (semi dark or dark environment), placing water and food - if possible seek advice about what and when, species specific (I usually wait at least 4 hours before offering food, gives the critter some time to settle). Below is some more advice for release, but if you are not confident with this, then the bird, or any critter for that matter, should be passed on to one of the organisations listed in the link below.

A flight test is conducted prior to release. This involves being in a room, lights on (so the bird can see) with curtains/blinds closed (don't want the bird to fly into a closed window and injure itself). Hold the bird in your hands about waist high and angle toward the ceiling or roof. It should fly upwards and around the room. If this is the case, then the bird is as ready for release, as I am able to make it. You should then use a towel or sheet to recapture it as gently as possible. Should the bird fly or fall straight to floor, then you need to seek a vets advice, perhaps needing further tests (X-ray ect.) and treatment (dehydration is a big issue for birds in this situation). When at the release site, I usually just open the box and stand back, the bird knows what to do. Often they go before any decent photos are taken, but I still try.

Sounds to me like all should be ok, as the bird flew off, so well done.

Thanks for caring!

By the way, I do not consider myself an expert, but have done some wildlife rescue courses, and have a valuable resource here in Tasmania (Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary FOC wildlife rescue service) that I consult for advice if I am unsure. 


Dale Huonville, Tasmania

Qyn's picture

Dale has given you some excellent advice and your wife has given the bird a better chance than the bird would have had it been hit by the next car. I am also a wildlife rescuer and the carer I am associated with would have at least kept the bird overnight and tested and/or had the bird vetchecked prior to release to at least ensure that, if any concussion had occurred, the bird was fully recovered or that all possible injuries were ruled out - this is just a precaution and not always necessary. If possible, we would also have released in the same area to avoid any territorial issues. That said, your wife and you have done much better than many people and given the Tawny at least a better chance of survival than it would have - it is amazing what warmth, dark, quiet and a chance to recover makes to an animal's chance of survival often mostly due to reducing the impact of shock and that is what you gave this bird, thank you!yes

Many of the Tawnies coming into care in my experience have been due to being orphans due to parental death, stunning by flying into windows, car collision (such as in this case as many Tawnies use the road as a source of prey such as moths etc drawn to car headlights but not getting out of the way soon enough), cat attack and broken bones due to some type of injury. They are gorgeous birds and are masters of bluff in defence. Thanks for helping our wildlife!yes

"the earth is not only for humans, but for all animals and living things."


You did the right thing and your wife should be congratulated for her bravery and for caring. I wonder whether any of the other car drivers even hesitated.

Devster's picture

Thanks richman, my wife will be so glad to hear that. She was a little bit worried that she let it go in the Samford village and that it has more chance in getting into trouble here because of the traffic.

leah.kate86's picture

Hi, not following on directly from this thread but it is a question about tawny frogmouths in my backyard. There were two who roosted on close branches of the same tree every day and now theres only one. I am afraid something has happened to the other one. Do pairs often roost together then separate? I cant see the other one in any of the surrounding trees :-( Any answers ould be mmuch appreciated. Thanks.

Woko's picture

Tawny frogmouths can roost in companies, pairs or singly. So it's quite common to observe what you've observed, leah.kate86. However, that's no guarantee that some mishap hasn't befallen one of the Tawny Frogmouths in your backyard. E.g., cats are notorious for predating our native birds.

leah.kate86's picture

Thanks Woko. Hopefully it's just moved to another spot. We have a cat but he's pretty small still and I don't think he could even climb as high as these two were roosting during the day and we keep him indoors at night. He has bells on too so we are hoping he is not able to catch any birds let alone one that's nearly as big as him. I haven't found any feathers or anything on the ground either so hopefully it's ok.

Woko's picture

leah.kate86, you may be interested to know that cats learn to move so that their bells don't tinkle. You will probably need to confine your cat to a cat run day & night if you want to preserve your native bird life.

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