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frogmouth

frogmouth, common name for small, owllike birds of the family Podargidae, ranging in size from 9 to 21 in. (22.5–52.5 cm). Their soft plumage is a mottled gray-brown in color with little distinction between sexes. Their eyes are wide and the tongue large and paperlike. A close relative of the nightjars (see goatsucker), they share with them a wide, horny, flat, sharply hooked, boat-shaped bill, but unlike them, do not use it to capture insects on the wing. Rather, frogmouths feed on crawling animals, such as caterpillars, beetles, scorpions, and centipedes. They fly swiftly, but only over short distances, and the reduced tail feathers limit maneuverability. Nine species in the genus Batrachostomus are found from India to Malaysia. The remaining three species, in the genus Podargus, are found throughout Australia, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. All are nocturnal forest dwellers. Podargus species build flat, twig platform nests, while species of Batrachostomus make cushions of their own feathers and camouflage them with moss and spiderwebs. Frogmouths lay one or two whitish eggs, which the males incubate by day and the females at night. Frogmouths are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Caprimulgiformes, family Podargidae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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