Friday, 17 April 2015

A true Tawny Frogmouth

A truly red/rufous coloured Tawny Frogmouth found in Canberra - a victim of road kill
It was wet with heavy rain last night, and all day today, and when I drove into town in the morning I saw a dead bird lying in the cycle lane. It looked like a Boobook, the common local owl in Canberra, but it didn't look right for one. So I took note of where it was in order to check it on my return. Maybe it was something else, what? Then an hour later, as I approached the bird from the other direction, I saw straight away that it was a Tawny Frogmouth, but it was so red, and that is why I hadn't recognised it first time. Although I study these birds and have seen hundreds of individuals, none have been as red as this bird.

All the frogmouths I have seen in the Canberra area have, despite their name, been predominately grey. The males have, if any, only a little red on the sides of their face or a touch on their wings coverts. The females are usually more rufous in the same parts, and a few have a bit more red on their wings, but none I have seen have been so red as this bird. I would so much have liked to have met her when alive in the bush.

The whole of her upper body was red
 apart from her primary and secondary feathers which were dark brown/black
The bird's body was in good condition apart form the obvious head injury that killed her outright. So I gathered her up and took a few measurements for my own records. Her corpse is now in the freezer and on Monday I shall deliver her to the Australian National Wildlife Collection, which is conveniently held by CSIRO here in Canberra, the national capital.

I must look up the type-specimen of Tawny Frogmouth one day to see whether that bird was truly tawny, or grey like most in south-east Australia.

She still had a recently caught moth in her bill when she died
The moth was large, with a body about 8-9 cm long, and grey overall with no particularly obvious features. If anyone has an idea of what it might have been please drop a note. It was obviously too large a prize for the bird to ignore as she risked the traffic to catch it. Let that be lesson to us all: take care on the roads especially while there is heavy rain.

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