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The Gathering

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The Gathering

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MASTERS OF DISGUISE

With the deadliest of stares, the tawny frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) is one of Australia’s most beloved birds. A unique nocturnal bird that lives a complex life. A few interesting things; Of course, tawny frogmouths are known for their very effective camouflage, but if a predator persists it can get messy. The frogmouths first response is to mob, using their beaks to peck at nest intruders. If this fails, the tawny will then spray the predator with their faeces. This confuses the predator, especially snakes, monitors and other animals that rely on their sense of smell. And it can take weeks for the smell to go away.

They tend to choose a partner for life. These frogmouth pairs are so close that they evict their offspring and spend the rest of their lives close together, perching on trees, leaning against and grooming each other.

The tawny uses a number of different calls to express everything from fear to annoyance. However, the most saddening is what Gisela has termed the “whimpering call”.Describing it as “gut-wrenching” and similar to the “low whimper of a newly born baby in serious pain” this particular call can go on for an entire night. Gisela once observed a bird making this call for several days after a female tawny had lost her male partner in a road accident. The bird then rejected partners for the following two years, which Gisela says may indicate an emotion of grieving.

Want to know more: Australia’s pre-eminent tawny frogmouth expert Gisela Kaplan,  has recently compiled 20 years of observations into a new book Tawny Frogmouth

Australian Geographic

The Gathering

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