Australia and Southeast Asia are regions ripe with exotic flora and fauna. From Australia’s unique populations of marsupials not found in other regions of the world, to the colorful and vibrant jungle creatures of Southeast Asia, these two regions contribute a menagerie of strange and wonderful animals to the diverse animal kingdom of this planet. There is one mysterious and bizarre animal that inhabits both of those regions. The frogmouth may, in fact, be the strangest and most wondrous creature of both of these regions.
Owl-like, with a gaping mouth and wide set eyes, the frogmouth is a bird quite unlike any other. These birds, though they certainly resemble owls, are actually related to nightjars, swifts, and, oddly, hummingbirds. (1) frogmouths are nocturnal animals. Although they are not exceptionally rare, they are often very difficult to spot. They have highly effective camouflage and are generally elusive.
Like hummingbirds, frogmouths have very small and weak feet. Because of this, they tend to catch their prey, often insects, snails, small reptiles, and rodents with their wide mouths and slightly hooked bills. Because they have difficulties grasping food with their feet, frogmouths are known to bash their prey repeatedly against a branch or surface to kill and consume it. (2)
What can be learned from a bird so elusive that those living in close proximity to it will rarely be aware of its presence? The mysteriousness of the frogmouth is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the allure of this unusual animal. For those who feel drawn to the frogmouth, it is the unique features of this bird that inspire and interest them. In this article we will examine the symbolism of the frogmouth and its meaning for the people who inhabit its native range. Certainly, a creature with such a prominent mouth must have something to tell us!
Frogmouth Symbolism and Meaning
The frogmouth is often associated with mystery and oddity. The strange visage of these birds, combined with their nocturnal habits make them prime examples of creatures of the shadows.
Frogmouth feathers are muffled such that air resistance is dispersed to produce very little sound whilst in flight. (3) Because of this, their highly effective camouflage, and for the aforementioned reasons, the frogmouth can be associated with secrecy and stealth.
The gaping mouth that is the frogmouth’s most obvious feature also lends itself to interpretation as a symbol of chattiness. Combine this with the fact that frogmouths are heard far more often than they are seen and you have a bird who can easily be associated with communication and gossip.
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Frogmouth Aboriginal Symbolism
In certain Aboriginal cultures, it is believed that, when the call of the Tawny Frogmouth is heard after dark, someone is destined to die. Tawny Frogmouth calls and owl calls are often confused with one another. The Tawny Frogmouth’s call is a soft “oom oom oom.” In the cultures of those that feared this cry, the frogmouth was a magical bird with the ability to turn itself into wood and communicate with spirits. (4)
Frogmouth in Dreams
If you’ve had a dream about the frogmouth, it’s probable that this creature’s unique face has made an impression on you. Though such a dream can seem ominous, there are plenty of possible positive interpretations to balance out the negative possibilities.
The frogmouth is a nocturnal animal that is rarely spotted, even by birders who live in frogmouths’ habitats. Dreaming of such an animal can indicate something hidden or unnoticed in the dreamer’s life. This can signify an unexplored or neglected aspect of the self or a hidden potential. In many cases, a frogmouth dream signifies finding what you’re looking for. If the answer to a problem has been hidden for a long time, a frogmouth dream can indicate that the solution is closer than you think!
Because frogmouths have occasionally been connected with sorcery, death, and misfortune it is possible for a frogmouth dream to represent fear. Anxiety over the mysterious things that lurk in the darkness of the unknown is completely natural. Although everyone experiences this kind of fear from time to time, dreaming of a frogmouth can be a great reminder that most of these fears are unfounded. Though they are certainly creatures of the night, frogmouths are nothing to fear. In an unusual way, many people find them quite cute and charming.
Dreaming of a frogmouth can also represent the need to try a new approach. Frogmouths are birds that usually survive by preying on other animals; these are generally bugs, small reptiles, and rodents. (5) Most birds that prey on other animals do so by catching their prey with grasping claws or talons. Never one to go with the crowd, the frogmouth catches its prey using only its namesake. Instead of using its small weak feet, the frogmouth catches dinner with its bill. (6) So, a dream in which a frogmouth appears, especially a hunting frogmouth, can indicate the need to do things differently. Perhaps a routine is no longer making you happy, or perhaps your approach to a problem is simply not playing to your strengths. In any case, the frogmouth may remind you that there is no one “right” way to get the job done.
Frogmouth Encounters and Omens
Though many Australian suburbs house frogmouths, encounters are disproportionately rare. Encountering such an elusive bird is a treasured experience and one for which many birders would do almost anything. The camouflage and nocturnal habits of the frogmouth mean that any encounter with one is the result of luck.
As such, encountering a frogmouth is incredibly lucky! It can mean that the universe is on your side and sending rare blessings your way. Keep an eye out for opportunities to get out of your comfort zone and try new things. With luck on your side, you may be in for some enriching new experiences.
Because frogmouths are so elusive, they often represent mysterious or hard to reach things. When encountering a frogmouth consider the goals and dreams that may feel out of reach to you. A frogmouth encounter can be a reminder that seemingly distant things are often found close to home.
Finally, a frogmouth encounter can indicate the need to find and use one’s own voice. Even when they cannot be seen the call of the frogmouth echoes throughout its territory. Encountering a frogmouth or hearing its call can mean that it’s time to channel that gaping frog-like mouth and speak up! Advocating for yourself and others can be a daunting lesson to learn, but like any skill it must be honed and practiced in order to truly shine.
Frogmouth in Mythology & Folklore
The frogmouth’s cultural impact is mostly limited to the indigenous peoples of Australia and Southeast Asia. Within these regions this bird is considered powerful and significant. This is showcased through an important Aboriginal story.
One Aboriginal dreamtime story explains why the frogmouth is nocturnal and why it sits on the branches of the ironbark tree. In it, “Binnit,” the frogmouth, meets “Mugga’go,” the ironbark, for the first time.
“Binnit pulled the feathered cloak over his head so that his eyes were shaded from the sun. “A long time ago a Wiri cursed me, and I became what you see today. Because of that curse, I can hunt only at night, and must stay in the shadows whilst the sun remains in the sky.” “You see, I met a man who was handsome and kind to me, and who persuaded me to leave my husband and my family. I ran off with him, I was so happy to be with him, and so proud that he wanted me to be his wife. Then I had a child, a beautiful son, whom I loved dearly. But the child did not take my milk although he thrived and grew. He walked without first learning to crawl upon the ground. He talked as if he was an initiated man although he was only as high as my knees.” A tear ran down Binnit’s face. “Then one night I pretended to sleep and watched my husband and my son perform a ceremony that was forbidden to The People.” “I knew then that I had brought evil into This Land. I tried to drive a spear into my husband, but my son prevented me, and held me whilst my husband placed the curse upon me.” “I followed them, hoping that one day I would be given a chance to stop their evil ways, or to somehow make him change me back into that which I was before, but before I could do anything, you and your peacekeepers had enticed the Wiri into the fire.” “I am sorry.” Said Mugga’go. “Had we known we may have been able to persuade the Wiri to revoke the curse before we destroyed them.” “Not them, you only destroyed my husband.” Binnit replied. ” My son still lives, and he seeks revenge upon the Peacekeepers for destroying his father.”” (7)
In the end, Mugga’go wanders the land with Binnit on his shoulder in search of her evil son.
Frogmouth Spirit Animal
If the frogmouth is your spirit animal then it’s likely that this unique bird’s influence is one that you feel very keenly. Most individuals with this spirit animal resonate with the secretive introversion of the frogmouth.
People with this spirit animal tend to be somewhat shy, though they are often much more comfortable speaking than they are being seen or occupying the spotlight. As such, they can be excellent writers or interpersonal communicators despite a deep fear of attention.
People with the frogmouth spirit animal tend to gravitate towards low maintenance relationships that allow them to enjoy their time alone.
The frogmouth spirit animal often comes with a unique outlook and an offbeat sense of humor. Though reserved, people with this spirit animal tend to be goofy and passionate once they’re comfortable enough to open up.
Frogmouth Totem Animal
The frogmouth totem animal functions similarly to the frogmouth spirit animal. Both are characterized by an inherent elusiveness. In the case of the frogmouth totem animal, stoicism is often employed as a shield that guards a vulnerable spirit.
Preferring solitude, when faced with uncomfortable social situations, individuals with the frogmouth totem animal tend to clam up. Despite having lots to say, they will fall back on blending into the background as a means of going unnoticed.
The frogmouth totem animal tends to be very observant. By watching closely and drawing little attention to themselves, people with this totem often learn about the inner lives of their peers. Because of this, they can be very sensitive and empathetic beneath their stony affects.
Frogmouth Power Animal
The frogmouth power animal is characterized by its vision. People with this power animal tend to be vigilant, perceptive, and insightful. The frogmouth power animal is watchful and protective over loved ones.
Vision can also be applied to imagination. People with the frogmouth power animal have the ability to envision a goal for the future and seek out the best path towards it. The perceptive nature of such individuals fuels a boundless ambition for the better future that they can see.
Frogmouth Tattoo Meaning
A frogmouth tattoo can be a symbol of mystery and hidden things.
For someone familiar with the Aboriginal mythology surrounding the frogmouth, it may represent either justice or evil.
Most likely, though, a frogmouth tattoo represents a love for this distinctive, strange, and scarcely known bird.
A specter in the night whose cries signify death, a funny-looking bird that blends into tree bark, a lucky encounter fit for any birder’s life list; the frogmouth is an animal that can be difficult to pin down. While some find the appearance of the frogmouth to be silly and charming, still others are unsettled by this nocturnal bird.
The idea of such a striking bird living, unseen, right under the noses of so many people is an interesting one. It showcases the incredible adaptability of the animal kingdom. It reminds us of our hubris in believing that humankind truly understands the nature that we have attempted to master. I find this idea to be an exciting one. Rather than disheartening, what could be more elating than to realize that nature still has secrets to uncover. If the frogmouth can teach us anything it’s that the beauty of nature often lies in the things that we don’t see. Perhaps, as many of us peer inquisitively into the natural world there are just as many hidden, curious, eyes peering back at us.
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14 thoughts on “Frogmouth Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)”
Thank you for this information,
Was so cool to read about these little beauty’s
I arrived home last night to find one sitting on my gate,
I walked over to him and he let me pat him
Such a beautiful experience
I feel very blessed 😊
Thank you very much! I’m glad you enjoyed my work. That encounter sounds like a really special experience!
— Hailey Brophy
Writer @ World Birds
Hi, very interesting read. I’m leaving this comment just to kind of brag because we have a pair of tawnies nesting within 20m of the side door to our house. In suburbia!!! I keep a close eye on them I only noticed today the male stayed all day on the nest must mean the eggs are there. So excited to see once they hatch and seeing the little chicks grow.
That’s amazing! You’re lucky to have spotted them seeing as they’re so secretive. Thank you for reading my article, I’m glad you enjoyed it!!!
— Hailey Brophy
Writer @ World Birds
I have a tawny frog mouth which is always hanging out on our long drive way on a post and over last month I started to wind window of car down and say hello tawny, I see you here every night. Bye have a good night!
And then suddenly it stopped perch ling there and disappeared- and I was in car with man I’m pregnant to a bit under a fortnight and I said ohh have you noticed the tawny is always on this post at night. And he said yes he had noticed. And I explained ever since I stopped and said hello when driving past it has not been on the post. And we both giggles. Driving further down the drive we both commented, look! There it is very prominently on the feature wall, and we laughed to see it perched so prominently after commenting on it hiding. Then fortnight following have not seen it at all.
Until tonight it was sitting in centre of the gate and staring at me with headlights on it. I turned ignition off turned lights off and looked up at stars, put car head lights on and it was facing me. Looking away sometimes, then back at me. The funny thibg was last two days before this I was getting scared at the gates at night and I’d race out open gate and close it feeling an impending fear. And I’d done it again and had double bolted interior of my car when checking the garage bins getting out, when goi g into my car got scared, double locked car interior drove up to gate. And in shock saw the tawny and felt scared.
But also in awe of seeing the bird so confident
But I am in turmoil deciding on if it’s right on getting an abortion tomorrow. I spoke to many close women about it today
Each one impact my decision and feeling unsure what was right.
I felt the bird was a kind of omen
Like some one will die tomorrow or someone will live it’s up to me. I turned car lights off again and then when turned on (after ten mins of sitting in car watching it) it had gone
I got out of car opened and closed gate then visited the man who got me pregnant and we talked about what I would do
I’m still struggling on having the abortion but also feel having it with him is not right
It’s messing with my mind
But the symbolic presence of this bird in the centre of my gate no budging helped my with perspective and clarity to distance myself a moment from my logical torment of making right decision
I looked up this bird because this is the second night this week I’ve had one sitting on my gate into the house yard. It doesn’t seem to phased by me walking past. I FaceTimed my mum to tell her about it & it was still sitting on my gateway!
What a lucky encounter! Even people who live very near Frogmouths can go an entire lifetime without spotting one. Way to go, and thanks for reading my article!
— Hailey Brophy
Writer @ World Birds
My friend sent me this article in messenger today as I have been having regular visits from Tawny Frogmouths for a few years now. This week alone I’ve had one fly along side my car Monday night and then when I turned the corner one was in the middle of the road just staring at me. I stopped thinking maybe it was hurt but it flew away. Then last night I had one on my clothes line so I had a chat with it and then came inside to get my camera and recorded it. I’ve had them fly low over me if I’m outside at night and I have a pair that visits and I watched the male catch a roach for his lady. Even if I cant see them I can hear them. I don’t know why they come to me but I love them. I live in NSW.
Thank you for your insightful article. I was on my way to work and saw a wonderful feather at the end of my pathway on the border of our property. I picked it up – admired it and asked for an ID on a bird info page. It was a Tawny Frogmouth. I must have one living in the wonderful paperbark tree at our house. This article really helped me enjoy and explore the experience more.
I’m so glad that you enjoyed it!
— Hailey Brophy
Writer @ World Birds
Thank you for the information you wrote on the frogmouth. The reason I looked up the bird is because I dreamt about one last night. It was strange because even though I live in Australia I have not seen one and my bird of choice is a kookaburra. I even had a conversation with the frogmouth and photos taken in my dream and he was a friendly and funny fellow.
When I awoke this morning a good friend, whom I’m going away with sent me details of where we are going for the night and one of the photos happen to be of a frogmouth much to my surprise. I am also not one to look into dreams or symbols but this for some reason made an impression.
I happen to be going through great change at the moment which is accompanied by fear so after reading your information it made sense, so thanks again. I will now seek out my new spirit guide. I live on a 10 acre bush block so maybe he lives out there.
I’m not surprised that you haven’t seen one since they’re so very secretive! Fortunately, though, there’s a good chance that there’s a frogmouth in your vicinity anyways. If you listen for it, you might even hear one! I’m glad my article was able to give you what you were looking for. Thank you for reading and let me know if you have any questions!
— Hailey Brophy
Writer @ World Birds
What a great article .. I spotted a pair months ago up my padock nestled on the branch of a dead tree! So hard to see but once I spotted them and realised they weren’t a clump of bark I’d visit daily to say g’day. One day they just disappeared and I worried about a cat or fox taking them.. Meanwhile a weeks ago I had several damaged trees removed from my property and one dangerous tree that hangs over my shed that I’ve had a resident koala visit was set for the big chop! Its rotten through the middle and when it goes it will flatten my shed so I have no choice. As the tree was being prepared to be cut down somehow i spotted the tawny frogmouths nest with mum or dad in it! I cant tell who it’s as its too high up .. needless to say my dangerous tree is still standing while we wait for the eggs to hatch!! I can’t believe I spotted it and im so thankful I did .. cant wait for the chicks to arrive and can only hope I get to see them before they fly the nest 🙂 … I love my little pair I also understand they pair for life .. im a lot like a tawny from yr descriptions so maybe they’re my totem bird.
Thank you for your insights.
Wow! Those little guys are so lucky that you spotted them. Thanks for leaving the tree up and giving them time to move on! Thank you for reading my article. I’m glad that you enjoyed it and I’m always happy to share my love of birds!
— Hailey Brophy
Writer @ WorldBirds