Saturday, 26 September 2009

Tawny Frogmouth study - 5

While the male birds sit on the nests during the day, the females roost on a nearby perch. Whenever a predator or person approaches they stretch into their cryptic pose. This bird is only half in this pose as she was familiar with me and the photograph was taken with a 400m lens from a distance far enough for her to consider me as only a possible threat.
Tawny frogmouths are so well adapted to concealment in the trees. Here, the bird sits on a dead limb, which they almost invariably do, and the dashes on the grey feathers of her belly match the pattern of the dead wood. The feathers on her back, the coverts on her wings and her scapulars all resemble the flecks of peeling bark on the trunk of the tree which she is sitting close up against. Her eyebrows droop like strips of bark and all the time she keeps her eyelids closed, yet still watching from behind them, through tiny gaps in the not quite straight fitting closure.We might not see them but they are always watching us as we pass by unaware of their presence.

Tawny Frogmouth study - 4

Most nests are set in a horizontal fork of a tree branch, however some are craftily set on the end of broken limbs, such as this one. As he sits relaxed, the bird is difficult to discern from the branch, but when the bird sits in its concealment pose, with head erect and the bristles above his bill spread, he so resembles the broken end of the branch.

Tawny Frogmouth study - 3

Twenty of the pairs I am monitoring now have eggs and the males are incubating all day every day for approximately a month until the first eggs hatch. They mostly lay two eggs, but can lay one or three. The eggs are pure white, about ping-pong ball size, and as they are white they need to be covered all day to prevent magpies, ravens or currawongs taking them. The birds usually sit in a relaxed pose, but when a potential predator – like me with a camera – approaches they slip into their broken branch pose and blend into the form and colour of the tree.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Tawny Frogmouth study - 2

These birds are incredibly difficult to find.

They are nocturnal birds and roost all day relying on their cryptic plumage and motionless posture for defence from predators. Here a pair roost inconspicuously, the female who is slightly smaller and has a touch of red/brown in her feathers, sits nearer to the main stem of the tree.

Tawny Frogmouth study

It is Spring in Canberra and the birds are nesting. For the past few years I have been studying tawny frogmouths; plotting their distribution and following their breeding success.

This pair have begun a nest high on a branch about fifty metres away. Once an egg is laid the male will incubate it and keep it covered all day, while the female roosts on this or another nearby perch.