Frogmouths - they’ve gained some unexpected popularity in recent years. Why? Because a widely publicized study by the Experimental Aesthetics group at the University Hospital Jena, Germany, found them to be the “most Instagrammable bird.” The researchers analyzed 27,000 photos of birds and found frogmouths to have the highest number of likes relative to exposure.
These dark, well-camouflaged birds are fluffy and are often confused with owls, despite having front-facing eyes and many different morphological features. Like owls, they’re primarily nocturnal but are more closely related to the nightjars.
This article is all about Tawny frogmouth chicks, and there will be plenty of photos along the way!
Tawny frogmouths are medium-sized, stocky birds with large owl-like heads. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given their name, they have broad, frog-like mouths.
When they hatch, Tawny frogmouth chicks have very thick and fluffy bright-white down. Their white down is quite similar to owlets, but again, frogmouths and owls are not related.
Very young frogmouths look like small white furballs and are easy to spot, unlike the well-camouflaged adults. To keep the chicks hidden, one of their parents sits on the nest throughout the day to conceal them and keep them warm. Baby Tawny frogmouths have large, beady eyes and big mouths, which make them pretty distinctive - or “Instagrammable”!
A pair of young Tawny Frogmouth Chicks with one of their parents
After around two weeks, the chicks grow a grayish down, and their first juvenile pin feathers emerge. After a month, the chicks are still fluffy and downy but begin turning darker. The chicks take around 5 weeks to fledge, at which point the chicks are roughly half the weight of adults.
Juvenile Tawny frogmouths are still slightly lighter than adults and retain some fluffier, scruffier plumage until they molt into their full adult plumage.
A pair of slightly older Tawny Frogmouth chicks
Baby Tawny frogmouths are small, measuring just a couple of inches long or less.
As adults, the birds measure 34 to 53cm (13 to 21in) long and weigh up to 680g (1.50lb).
Juvenile Tawny frogmouths start to lose their down after 4 weeks or so, and fledge after 4 to 5 weeks.
They gradually turn darker, from white to light-gray, and then dark-gray and brown. It’s worth mentioning, however, that there are three different color morphs that differ slightly in plumage color and patterning. Some morphs are considerably lighter than others.
Overall, juveniles are slightly lighter than adults and have lighter, fluffier, scruffier plumage. They retain some of their downy plumage for several months until they fully molt into adult plumage.
Two juvenile Tawny Frogmouths being protected by an adult (far left)
There’s no specific name for a baby Tawny frogmouth. Generally, a newly hatched chick is called a hatchling.
A young bird in the nest is called a nestling, and a fledgling, once it learns to fly and leaves the nest. Young birds are called juveniles.
A Tawny Frogmouth chick born at Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida, JSA, was dubbed “Furby,” which seems a fitting nickname given the fluffy white down of a frogmouth chick!
Tawny frogmouths are carnivorous and feast almost entirely on insects, arthropods, and various invertebrates, including moths, spiders, worms, slugs, snails, bugs, flies, beetles, wasps, ants, centipedes, millipedes, and even scorpions. Their voracious appetites make them excellent pest controllers!
Baby Tawny frogmouths have similar diets to adults but are generally fed with softer insects and invertebrates like worms. They’re also fed partially regurgitated food from the adult’s crops, an extension of the stomach.
Adult Tawny frogmouths also eat small lizards, frogs, and the occasional mouse.
A pair of Tawny Frogmouth fledglings
Tawny frogmouth parents feed their chicks whole food and semi-digested food, which is regurgitated from their crop, an extension of the stomach.
Anecdotal observations from birdwatchers suggest Tawny frogmouths form a food pellet in their mouth, which they pass into the chick’s mouth.
Chicks are likely fed smaller, soft insects like flies and invertebrates like worms until they’re old enough to hunt their larger insects.
A pair of Tawny Frogmouth fledglings
Both parents feed the young chicks. Tawny frogmouths are monogamous and form strong long-term bonds. The birds are very affectionate with each other and often roost on the same branch.
Raising chicks is largely cooperative, with both the male and female sharing various nest building, incubation and feeding duties. Both parents feed the chicks in shifts throughout the night, as these birds are nocturnal and are rarely active during the day.
A pair of Tawny Frogmouth chicks in the nest with adult looking after them
Tawny frogmouth eggs are pure white and measure 37-51mm long and 25-34mm wide.
Tawny frogmouth incubation lasts for around 28 to 32 days. Both parents incubate the eggs, though the female is thought to carry out the majority of incubation duties.
Nesting Tawny Frogmouth with three babies all perched on a branch together
Female Tawny frogmouths lay an average of 2 to 3 eggs per year between August, December, or January, though this varies from south to north Australia.
Providing all eggs hatch, they’ll have 2 to 3 babies, but it’s common for at least one egg not to hatch or one chick to die before fledging.
Most Tawny frogmouths breed between August and January, a protracted breeding season compared to the northern hemisphere’s traditional spring breeding season.
Most eggs are laid between September and December, but birds in the south may breed twice a year.
Tawny Frogmouth with her baby chicks at night
Tawny frogmouth chicks have a long nestling period of just over one month. Then, their parents feed them for another couple of weeks after leaving the nest.
Juveniles stay close to their parents for several months to a year, at which point they become independent. Tawny frogmouths are sexually mature at around 12 months.
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