Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Visit by a Scrub Turkey

We had a visitor to the garden - an Australian Brush-turkey (scientific name: Alectura lathami). I noticed him/her scratching about in the rainforest area when I went to feed the chickens so raced inside to get the camera. Not great shots I'm afraid. I was trying not to scare it away.
 The Australian brush turkey - also known as a scrub turkey or bush turkey - is a common sight in suburban Brisbane. It is a native Australian bird and is protected under legislation, which makes it a serious offence to harm scrub turkeys.
If you are wondering why the need protection. It has to do with their nesting habits.
The Australian brush turkey incubates its eggs in a large mound. The male usually builds a single large mound of organic matter, approximately 4 m in diameter and 1 m high.  Eggs are laid by several females in a single mound. The eggs are incubated by the heat given off by the rotting vegetation. The male maintains a constant temperature of 33 - 38°C by digging holes in the mound and inserting his bill to check the heat, then adding and removing vegetable matter as required. After hatching, the chicks burrow out of the mound, at which point they are left to fend for themselves. These hatchlings are fully feathered and are able to walk and fend for themselves immediately. Remarkably, they are able to fly just a few hours after hatching.

A standard garden can be stripped by a mound-building male brush turkey in less than a day. If you disturb or move the mound during the day, the male will probably rebuild it in the same location the next day persisting in a location until the end of the breeding season. So you can imagine the damage they can do to a garden.
As long as it stays in the rainforest area or under the bamboo it won't damage too much in our garden, so I'd actually love it to take up residence. We have lots of leaf litter for a mound, so he is welcome to borrow some of it.
Flo was not impressed though.  She was ready to defend the compost bins.
Our visitor was a juvenile I think. It doesn't yet have the large yellow crop of the adult male.

This is what the adult birds look like.
My creeping around with the camera wasn't quiet enough obviously, because it saw me and took off.

It leapt the fence and "flew" over
and was last seen wandering off through the front yard.
It's checked out the supply of leaf litter .
It may return. It may not. I'm hoping it will.

11 comments:

  1. I can't believe it. What would be the odds of a blogger in Victoria (where there are no brush turkeys) writing a post to put up in a couple of days about brush turkeys...only to find that you have also posted one on the same topic? That is SERIOUSLY spooky. I can't understand you wanting it to come back...well I can, but what if it digs up the whole garden an deposits it in the swimming pool?

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  2. I hope the turkey goes back to your garden and build a mound. Would it mean there are many females around? This is interesting. I am imagining eggs and cute little chicks.

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  3. Ooh, what a beautiful bird! I certainly would not have room to host a beast who requires such an enormous nest here in my garden. So people don't eat these turkeys, then?

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  4. Great photos. I never heard of this very pretty and colorful turkey. Thanks. Flo's expression is priceless.

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  5. That was fantastic for you, to see this beautiful Brush-turkey.

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  6. Hazel - I'm sure you're right. I imagine him setting up home in the rainforest area and leaving the rest of the garden alone. What's the chance?

    Floridagirl - I've never heard of anyone eating them. They're protected by law. Most people just think they are a big nuisance.

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  7. Oh missy, if I find one in my garden you can have him! Having said that, there is one that frequents our neighbour's yard... but not ours... cause we have a BIG DOG!

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  8. Luckily our garden is way too small to even think of a bush turkey moving in, so I like and admire them from afar..... I have always been fascinated by the way they keep the temperature stable in their nests. It reminds me of myself when I go and stir up the compost or add a pile of shredded leaves and sigh with content at the heat in there. we think we are so clever and nature has been doing this for years....

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  9. Wow, the turkeys in your part of the world are very colorful! We have wild turkeys roaming around here in Wisconsin too, but they don't make nests of that magnitude or near people. Our turkeys are not very good-looking, either, not like yours! What a fascinating lesson on their nesting.

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  10. Oh please, please come and take some of ours! Horrible, rotten creatures! I'm not a big fan! They can dig up a yard quicker than you can say 'Shotgun!' Oooppss! Not that we would ever, ever contemplate using one of those!

    I've just read your comment on my MM post. So sorry to hear you have friends and family in these flooded areas ... I do so hope they're at least safe and sound with somewhere to stay. I can't imagine what it must be like for them, having never experienced such levels of flooding myself.

    How's the rain going down there? I've heard there's predictions of flash flooding in lots of spots around Brissie. Hope you don't cop it. Fingers crossed for you.

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  11. How exciting!! Ours, in the United States, don't have near this cool of a color. "Rainforest area" how cool. I may have to carve out a little "rainforest area".

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