Podargidae – Frogmouths

Sri Lankan Frogmouths Batrachostomus moniliger ©Sudeesh Thattekkadu Website

The Podargidae or frogmouths are a group of nocturnal birds related to the nightjars. They are found from the Indian Subcontinent across Southeast Asia to Australia and are named for their large flattened hooked bills and huge frog-like gape, which they use to capture insects. Their flight is weak.

They rest horizontally on branches during the day, camouflaged by their cryptic plumage. Up to three white eggs are laid in the fork of a branch, and are incubated by the female at night and the male in the day.

The three Podargus species are large frogmouths restricted to Australia and New Guinea, and have massive flat broad bills. They are known to take larger prey such as small vertebrates (frogs, mice, etc.), which are sometimes beaten against a stone before swallowing. The twelve Batrachostomus frogmouths are found in tropical Asia. They have smaller, more rounded bills and are predominantly insectivorous. Both Podargus and Batrachostomus have bristles around the base of the bill, and Batrachostomus has other, longer bristles which may exist to protect the eyes from insect prey. In 2007, a new species of frogmouth was described from the Solomon Islands and placed in a newly established genus, Rigidipenna.

Recent research suggests that the two frogmouth groups may not be as closely related as previously thought, and that the Asian species may be separable as a new family, the Batrachostomidae. Usually placed in the order Caprimulgiformes, another recent study has cast doubt on the frogmouths’ placement within that order, and they may be distinct enough to warrant an order of their own, Podargiformes, as Gregory Mathews proposed as far back as 1918.

There are 16 species of Frogmouth currently recognised by the IOC, they are:

Marbled Frogmouth Podargus ocellatus
Papuan Frogmouth Podargus papuensis
Tawny Frogmouth Podargus strigoides

Solomons Frogmouth Rigidipenna inexpectata

Large Frogmouth Batrachostomus auritus
Dulit Frogmouth Batrachostomus harterti
Philippine Frogmouth Batrachostomus septimus
Gould’s Frogmouth Batrachostomus stellatus
Sri Lanka Frogmouth Batrachostomus moniliger
Hodgson’s Frogmouth Batrachostomus hodgsoni
Short-tailed Frogmouth Batrachostomus poliolophus
Bornean Frogmouth Batrachostomus mixtus
Javan Frogmouth Batrachostomus javensis
Blyth’s Frogmouth Batrachostomus affinis
Palawan Frogmouth Batrachostomus chaseni
Sunda Frogmouth Batrachostomus cornutus

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 16

Useful Reading
  • Nightjars

    A Guide to the Nightjars and Related Nightbirds by Nigel Cleere and Dave Nurney Pica Press 1998 ISBN: 1873403488 Buy this book from NHBS.com

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