Tassie’s ‘Poppa Tawny Frogmouth’ converted his home into a tawny rehabilitation centre

By Angela Heathcote 29 January 2018
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Well-known for his work with Tassie’s resident tawny frogmouths, David Joyce is quite the celebrity around Hobart.

SINCE HE FIRST created his bird sanctuary back in 2010 charismatic Canadian David Joyce has rescued more than 88 tawny frogmouths (Podargus strigoides).

Dave’s Facebook Group ‘Tawny Frogmouth & Wild Bird Rehab’ has 543 active members eager to know all the happenings at Dave’s West Hobart property.

As well as the frogmouths, there’s Winston the Wattlebird, Greg the Cockatoo and Rave the Raven, all birds rescued by Dave, who still frequent the sanctuary following their successful rehabilitation.

But the group’s loyal members aren’t passive observers. Instead, the community is actively involved in helping Dave maintain his sanctuary by feeding the birds, offering food or supplying mulch.

That his followers have the chance to interact with Tasmanian birdlife up-close has made Dave into something of a local celebrity.

dave poppa tawny frogmouth

Dave with a raven he rehabilitated.

Sad beginnings

Dave, or ‘Poppa Tawny Frogmouth’ as he is known, tells Australian Geographic that he was initially intimidated by the tawny until his close friend and fellow birder Arthur Beck warmed him to the bird.

Dave first met Arthur when he lived in Hobart and maintained contact with him after he moved to Queensland for retirement and began looking after birds full-time. 

“I used to go up to Art’s place just to hang out. I was absolutely fascinated by what he was doing. He didn’t just have tawnies though. He had kingfishers and kookaburras, a lot of Australian birds,” Dave says.

Upon being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer Art was eager to pass on his lifelong love of Australian wildlife, particularly his affection for Australian birds.

“One day Art rang me up and said alright Joycey, how serious are you about looking after birds? I said ‘Art, I’m really serious, I’d love it’,” Dave recalls.  “And he said ‘well, get up here because I’m dying’.”

For Dave, his last trip to see Art for a crash-course in how to look after native birds was life-changing.

“I went up and spent eight days with him just going over everything, every minute that he could possibly be awake, whether it was two o’clock in the afternoon of four in the morning,” he says.

“I was being bombarded with 20 years of knowledge in 8 days. After I flew back to Hobart he died two days later.”

poppa tawny frogmouth

Dave with one of his tawny frogmouths.

From sports medicine to bird care

Much of what Dave now knows about running a bird rehab, however, he’s either learnt on the job or has drawn from his background in sports medicine.

“The anatomy and physiology I learnt when I was doing sports medicine relates incredibly well to birds and wildlife,” he says.

“A lot of the bone structure and a lot of the tendons in some ways are the same.

“How to treat and assess injuries and how to rehydrate are all pretty similar. I didn’t necessarily have to force-feed football players though.”

While Dave’s intention is to recover the birds and release them back into the wild, some birds regularly drop in for a visit.

“About seven years ago I had a bird called T-15 that I hand-raised and released after a three month stay. To this this day he’ll often come back and show me his babies.”

tawny frogmouths

Some tawny frogmouths that Dave rehabilitated.

Overwhelming community support

The Tawny Frogmouth & Wild Bird Rehab Facebook page is full of people ready to help Dave with his recovery of native birds.

Some offer to come and feed the birds while Dave is away or help clean the shelters, and several local business including local fruit shops and tree services have offered free supplies. 

In return, Dave is eager to teach fellow Tasmanians, particularly younger generations, about how to take care of wildlife.

“I’ve taken one of my tawnies to the local schools to see the kids,” he says. “ It’s why I’ve now got the nickname Poppa Tawny. The kids love seeing tawnies because, well, you hardly ever get to see them up close.  

“For me, it’s absolutely necessary for children to understand what’s out there and what they need to protect.”

If you’d like to help Dave with his rehabilitation centre you can make a donation to his GoFundMe page HERE.