What owl is this?

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Lenore's picture
What owl is this?

Hello folks,

I took these photos on Thursday evening (outside to put the bins out around 10 pm), in a Melbourne suburb.  I had seen this bird sitting on a cable outside my neighbour's gate one Thursday night a few weeks ago, but this time I was able to go back into the house and grab my phone to take a photo.   I didn't want to blind it with a flash, so the photos are not terrific.

Comparing the photo with my Field Guide to Australian Birds Vol 1 (1979 reprint of a 1972 edition) I thought it was likely to be a Powerful Owl.  It was a large bird.  But the problem is that the call was not as described in the book, or on various recordings I accessed on the internet, for the Powerful Owl, or any other large owl.   As I trawled on through bird calls, the only one that matched was the Tawny Frogmouth.  But the bird is clearly not a Tawny Frogmouth.

I had heard this bird calling over several nights. It was making a one-tone regular call that sounded for all the world like a car alarm, or some other alarm, at a distance, but if I opened the door to listen for it, the call would stop.   But last Thursday the call kept going when I went outside, and looking around for the source, there is this bird sitting in the tree, only a few feet from me.  It called while I was looking at it.

I don't know what to make of it.  Unless there was a sneaky Tawny Frogmouth hidden in a leafy tree nearby. Any other ideas?

timmo's picture

Hi Lenore,

Great sleuthing to find the mystery bird!

The sound you describe sounds exactly like a Tawny Frogmouth, as you've suggested.

I would think a Tawny is the most likely bird in a suburban setting like this.

I think the bird in your picture could easily be a Tawny Frogmouth, particularly if it is facing towards you, as it kind of appears to be. Which factors make you think it's something else?



rictannerman's picture

Agree with timmo on that. Sounds and looks like a Tawny Frogmouth.


Lenore's picture

Hi Timmo and RT.  I do agree it entirely sounded like a Tawny Frogmouth, but I was not sure about the shape.  Photos I have seen of the Tawny Frogmouth seemed to show that the Frogmouth had no visible neck, that the head was squished down on its shoulders, and my photos seemed to show a distinct head.  But I will bow to the inevitable and call it a Tawny Frogmouth.  The beastie has moved on since I took the photo and is calling elsewhere, I suppose.  It wasn't me and my photo taking phone that moved it on, as I used no flash, and it did call by the next evening, but maybe I opened the front door one time too many - or it caught the rat or possum in my front garden and moved on.

Lightuningbird's picture

The first time a saw a frogmouth, I didn’t know what it was. It started calling and it sceard me lol.

Wimmera mally region, Vic.

Azza210328's picture

Definetly a tawny frogmouth they always look bigger then what they are made out to be

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