Natural puzzle #19

Can you work out what’s going on here?

These Tawny Frogmouths were discovered in a local backyard a week ago, apparently locked in mortal combat. A third bird was observed looking on from nearby. First spotted on Sunday evening they remained like this until the 7.15am next morning, whereupon a close approach eventually prompted both birds to fly away.

I can only imagine that it involved a territorial dispute but would welcome any thoughts, especially if any readers have ever witnessed similar behaviour.


Tawny Frogmouths, Newstead, 31st August 2015. Photograph courtesy of Phil Dessens.

Thanks to Phil and Heather Dessens for this extraordinary observation.

5 responses to “Natural puzzle #19

  1. Maybe these are two males fighting over a female, (the onlooker). It is nesting season down here in sunny Sandringham and the local pair of Tawny’s are choosing a site. I guess there would be more of the species around Newstead hence the possibility of a fight over a mate.

    • Thansk Denis and Elizabeth – very interesting that similar behaviour has been observed elsewhere. I’ll do some more research at some stage to see what else might turn up.
      All the best, geoff

  2. The same tawnies as mentioned above in Sandringham were seen on 30/8/14 one either side of a thick branch of an oak tree, wings spread and beaks held together at night time with quite a scream-like call but they moved off when I put the torch on them. A pair subsequently bred in an oak tree nearby with 3 offspring appearing in December ’14.

  3. This is really interesting behaviour and a great photograph to document it. I had never seen or heard of this aggression in frogmouths until a couple of years ago when I saw two male Marbled Frogmouths up in south-east Qld. lock their beaks together in what must have been some sort of territorial dispute. I watched in amazement for 20 mins or so and the birds remained motionless and silent but locked together – maybe I should have checked the following morning!

  4. Fascinating ‘fight’! I only dread what a fox would do if it came across a pair like this…. very vulnerable.

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