The Australian brush turkey (Alectura Lathami), also frequently called the 'scrub turkey' or 'bush turkey', is a native Australian bird. It is protected under state wildlife legislation (Nature Conservation Act 1992). It is a serious offence to harm brush turkeys.
The brush turkey plays an important role in natural pest management. They prey on insects and grubs in woodland habitats and suburban gardens. They also help disperse native vegetation seeds through their faeces.
The long-term conservation of this species is necessary for maintaining the variety of plants and animals.
The Australian brush turkey:
- is a dark brownish-black bird
- is approximately 60-70 centimetres long
- male's head and neck is redder and a yellow wattle hangs from its neck (more prominent during breeding season)
- females are less distinct with no wattle.
The brush turkey prefers a closed canopy habitat such as rainforest. They also inhabit dense scrub and moist gullies, parks and suburban backyards.
Brush turkeys are mound builders. The male Australian brush turkey builds a nesting mound of soil and plant litter mostly between August and December. The heap may be two to four metres wide and more than one metre high.
The male spends a long time building and defending the nesting mound. Females are allowed access to it once the temperature is correct. For successful egg incubation the nest should be 33 degrees celsius. Once the female lays the eggs in the mound and buries them, the male keeps watch. The temperature is adjusted as necessary and the nest is defended from predators. However, when the eggs hatch, the baby brush turkey chicks are self-sufficient and left to fend for themselves. The brush turkey mortality rate is high, with only about one in 200 chicks surviving to adulthood.
Problems caused by brush turkeys
A mound-building male brush turkey can strip a standard garden in less than a day. If you disturb or move the mound, the male will probably rebuild the next day. They persist with the same location until the end of the breeding season. This activity is seasonal and decreases dramatically towards the end of the breeding season.
The adult brush turkey may intimidate or scare some people, but they are very shy by nature.
Relocation of brush turkeys can be very difficult and expensive. Often the removal or relocation of one bird will be quickly replaced by another.
What Council is doing
Brisbane City Council is working towards a natural balance to manage native species such as brush turkeys.
To increase understanding and awareness, community events about wildlife and pest animals are held regularly.
What you can do
To discourage brush turkeys, Council recommends you:
- do not feed them
- clean up food scraps or rubbish
- don't leave food out for other native species or pets
- cover compost heaps
- remove unnecessary sources of water from the backyard
- use heavy coverings to prevent raking (river rocks, coarse gravel and logs over standard mulch)
- use tree guards or fencing to protect young plants and trees (ask your local nursery or landscape supplier for recommend products)
- do not chase, kill or injure the birds
- do not destroy mounds or eggs
- do not disturb the birds when chicks are around the nest
- prune any vegetation above a turkey mound (reduced shade will encourage movement elsewhere)
- add a large mirror to your garden (after days of fighting its reflection, it may move on)
- cover empty mounds (heavy duty tarpaulin, black plastic or shade cloth).
To protect your garden you could:
- use tree guards or small rocks around the base of plants to prevent them being dug up
- develop your garden in stages and time new plantings outside of breeding season
- place chicken wire below the surface making it difficult for turkeys to rake the ground.