Podargidae – Frogmouths

They wear a magical cloak that helps them hide in plain sight

Frogmouths are unique nocturnal birds found primarily in Australia, New Guinea, and Indonesia. These birds are often confused with owls due to their nocturnal habits and similar resting posture; however, they are more closely related to nightjars within the order Caprimulgiformes.

Frogmouths are named for their large, broad, and hooked beaks that resemble a frog’s open mouth, which is well-adapted for capturing insects. They have wide gapes and bristles around their mouths to help them catch prey in the dark of night. Their mottled plumage is perfectly suited to mimic the bark of trees or the forest floor, making them nearly invisible when they sit motionless on a branch during the day.

These birds are masters of camouflage, often perching very still with their eyes closed to a slit and beak pointed up, which enhances their resemblance to a broken tree branch. This behavior helps them avoid detection by both prey and predators.

Frogmouths are not known for their flying prowess. Their flight is more of a silent glide than the powerful wingbeats seen in many other birds. They prefer to sit and wait for their prey to come within striking distance rather than actively pursuing it in flight.

Their diet is varied and includes nocturnal insects, spiders, worms, slugs, and occasionally small mammals, reptiles, or birds. Frogmouths are opportunistic feeders and will consume almost any prey item they can catch and swallow. For larger prey, as noted, they may use their beak to beat it against a rock or hard surface to kill it before swallowing.

Despite their somewhat fierce appearance and predatory behavior, frogmouths are relatively placid birds. Their calls are often soft and include a variety of grunts and growls that can be heard at night as they communicate with one another.