Tawny Frogmouth

Podargus strigoides

Order: Caprimulgiformes

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • Size and configuration should be similar to that of a barn owl.
  • Perching should be at least 10cm wide with bark that the bird can easily grip.
  • If possible the bird should have access to rain in order to bathe, although misting can substitute.
  • Frogmouths are relatively hardy and tolerant of sub-freezing temperatures (down to mid to low 20s F) when afforded adequate shelter from rain and wind.

SeaWorld Orlando off-exhibit enclosure showing perching

SeaWorld Orlando off-exhibit frogmouth enclosure

Diet Requirements

  • Frogmouths are primarily insectivorous. In the wild, the majority of their diet consists of insects (78%); spiders and centipedes make up a further 18%, and the remainder (4%) are terrestrial vertebrates such as frogs, lizards and rodents (Kaplan 2007). Similar to birds of prey, indigestible components of the diet (i.e. hair, exoskeletons) are regurgitated in the form of a cast.Diets consisting of mealworms/Zoophobes, crickets and hopper mice are appropriate for the species. Mice pinkies and extra insects should be offered in addition to the adult diet during chick-rearing.

Frogmouths should be offered a source of water in their enclosure, but they typically obtain most of their water needs through their food.

Hand-feeding frogmouths has historically been a common occurrance in AZA zoos, and no reasons have been offered to support or justify the belief that frogmouths must be hand-fed to survive. There are, of course, possible exceptions where hand-feeding might be necessary to ensure the condition of an aging or medically compromised bird, but healthy and fully-functional frogmouths are very capable of self-feeding and self-regulating their own weights. Since the SSP was initiated, several institutions have successfully transitioned their frogmouths from hand-feeding to self-feeding. An example of the process for this transition is outlined in Sea World Orlando’s paper on frogmouth husbandry (see attached).

Institutions holding frogmouths, especially pairs recommended for breeding, are strongly encouraged to allow them to self-feed.

Weight Management

Frogmouths experience significant seasonal weight fluctuations, and it is common, and perfectly normal, for a frogmouth to almost double its body weight and have significant fat deposits during the winter months (Nov-Feb). A reasonable weight range during the breeding season is 350-425g, while winter weights in the 500-700g range are not uncommon.

As fall approaches, food consumption for self-feeding frogmouths at the Woodland Park Zoo increases dramatically, and the diet is offered ad lib. Frogmouths are capable of self-regulating their weights without human intervention/hand-feeding. Micromanaging food consumption and weights, as is commonly done with raptors, should be avoided and is not considered best practice by the SSP for healthy frogmouths, especially for pairs recommended for breeding.

In the wild, among road-killed birds near Syndey, NSW, no fat deposits were found in frogmouths during the breeding season, while those with the largest fat deposits occurred during the winter months.

Veterinary Concerns

Notes on Enrichment & Training


Colony or Breeding Management


Individual Identification


Programmatic Information


Temperature Guidelines



Tips on Presentation

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling

  • Frogmouths can be handled without a glove. They will sit on a flat hand or on a fist. It is important to provide a wide surface on which it can perch since frogmouths cannot grip with their feet.
  • Pay attention to body posture as this can tell you if the bird is stressed. “Stumping” is a posture it uses to camouflage itself from predators. A well habituated bird will usually only show this posture if it feels threatened.
  • A sharp cackling noise, fluffed plumage and open mouth posture may indicate annoyance.


Potential Messaging

  • Compare the frogmouth to an owl to show morphological and physiological differences and similarities.

Acquisition Information

  • Contact Mark Myers, Tawny Frogmouth SSP Coordinator, at mark.myers@zoo.org if your institution is interested in acquiring an Ambassador frogmouth

Comments from the Rating System

  • Houston Zoo: Fascinating species, but the one I worked with seemed very nervous in front of guests.

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat


Physical Description


Life Cycle




Threats and Conservation Status

  • Listed by IUCN as Least Concern

Did you know…

  • Tawny frogmouths use torpor (a state of lowered physiological activity typically characterized by reduced metabolism, heart rate, respiration, and body temperature) at night as a means of conserving energy during periods of cold, winter temperatures when invertebrate food may be less available. They are one of the largest birds known to use this strategy.
  • Their tongue has a long, translucent, paper-like tip, the function of which is not known.
  • Unlike most other birds, frogmouths do not have preen (oil) glands. Instead, they have two large patches of powder-down on each side of their rump that helps make their plumage waterproof


WPZ tawny frogmouth chick- 1 day old

5-day old chick (Woodland Park Zoo)

one day old chick on red background

Day old chick (Woodland Park Zoo)

tf 2

Fledgling (Woodland Park Zoo)


Contributors and Citations

  • Baton Rouge Zoo
  • Mark Myers, Tawny Frogmouth SSP Coordinator

Top Photo Credit: Woodland Park Zoo