Tawny Frogmouth

Tawny Frogmouth Janet de Morgan

The nocturnal Tawny Frogmouth is most easily described by saying it is Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch with feathers, a big mouth and rather sloppy looking. The name alone demands attention. We were fortunate that the bird felt right at home in a camp ground resting after a night of waiting for insects to fly by, or small rodents to cross its path. The day was very hot and we were in one of the dry areas of Queensland. Most vegetation was brown with the drought, and the trees did not provide much shade. Our guide pointed to one of many trees. “There it is.” Where? I saw nothing that looked like a bird, just a rather smooth and grey trunk that branched about ten feet up. In the crotch was the stub of a broken branch, I thought. But no, on further inspection, the surface of the stump was softer than expected. Then toward the top, an eye opened a crack. Then it closed. And the shape of a bird replaced what I had thought was the stump. The eyelids were large for the face, and flopped like those of a puppet.

At the base of the bird, two smaller wide-open yellow eyes watched us. The chick never flinched, never blinked. Even a tiny movement would draw attention to it and in its mind we couldn’t see it. But of course, we did, and took photos, talked about it, studied its stick nest that seemed to just teeter in the crotch of the tree.