Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Big mouth - Frogmouth

I am in the process of re-building the back of the house. This is a huge task, and I will not bore you with the details. My brother is doing most of the work, but it serves to explain why I have been off the air for a few days.

However, Brendan arrived on Monday with a fresh road-killed Frogmouth which he picked up south from Nowra. He knew I would be interested. Personally, I think he has a magnetic attraction for Frogmouths, for I have previously shown photos of his neighbour's Frogmouth - a lost "fledgling".
The Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) (the NSW and Victorian forms at least) tend to be silvery grey, with prominent spots on the wings and finely marked plumage on the body, which aids its main defence, which is camouflage (pretending to be part of a tree).

The wings are long, relative to the length of the bird,
which indicates it is a strong, efficient flier, 
even if it spends a large proportion of its time sitting in a tree (by day), 
or on a fence post (by night) 
listening for insects crawling around in the leaf litter.
The feathers are very soft, which aids in silent flight.

Here is is as seen from above, rear.

Now you can see how the Frogmouth earns its living, and its name.
This very wide beak, which for some reason has a pale yellow gape
allows the Frogmouth to capture small prey, mostly insects 
and occasionally small  rodents.
The beak is very wide, but quite powerful.
Good for crunching its prey.

I used assume that because the beak is so wide, that it caught insects on the wing (as does a Swallow or a Swift, or even a Grey Fantail)
but apparently they actually perch on low vantage points and pounce on their prey.

From the side view, one can see also, the fine feathers
which help to camouflage the lines of the head.

The Frogmouth's feet are relatively weak.
This birds toes serve to allow it to perch on a branch - not much more than that.
By contrast, Owls have formidable talons for gripping live prey.
Compare this image below, with these Powerful Owl claws.
Those are the most formidable talons I have ever seen.


mick said...

Very interesting close-ups of the Frogmouth. The colors and patterns on the wings are beautiful - that's something that is not so easy to see when they are perching and pretending to be a branch.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick
I have been hardly attending to my Bloggiing dutes, as I have been busy re-building the back wall of my house - or at least my Brother is.
Yes, the mottled plumage makes for perfect camouflage, and the lines on the tail and body are all longitudinal, to resemble fibres and cracks in bark.
The large spots on the wing would not be visible when the wing is folded closed.
I really like the fine detail of the hairs around the beak and eyes, which help soften the bird's outline when it adopts the
"freeze" posture (for which they are famous).

mick said...

Don't worry about the blogging "duties"! I hope the weather is good and the house gets finished OK.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks for that comment, Mick.
Actually I enjoy it, and miss it when I don't do it - so it is hardly fair of me to describe it as "duties".
Weather has been perfect all week, which is remarkable.

Flabmeister said...

To really see how wide the Fromouth's oral aperture can be watch one on a nest being swooped by a Pied Currawong. It becomes a cavern, which seems quite effective in persuading the 'wong that there are better places to be.
We first became aware of Frogmouths in our area when they were hunting the moths on our verandah. So they certainly do catch prey in the air, but I think the technique is swoop from a perch rather than continual aerial patrol.
As we approach the end of repainting the outside of our house I empathise with your huse rebuilding duties.


Denis Wilson said...

Hi Martin
I actually have a photo of the cavernous mouth and gullet (throat).
Even I felt it to be a little too graphic for general publication.
I shall send it to you privately, and let you advise me as to whether or not to publish it.
I found it quite fascinating for the details, though.
Interesting to hear your comment about them opening their large yellow beaks wide open to scare the Currawongs.