Backyard Buddies
Brush Turkey

Photo: Ken Stepnell/OEH

Brush Turkey

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Brush Turkeys, or Bush Turkeys, have developed a reputation for creating a path of destruction through suburban gardens. With the shrinking of their habitat, they are forced to move into backyards to raise their families. Unfortunately, this requires an enormous mound of decomposing material which is not really welcome in our backyards.

A male Brush Turkey spends a lot of his time working on creating a big mound out of leaf litter, mulch, and plant clippings. Once the organic material in the nest starts to ferment and rot, it creates heat. This is the ideal place to incubate Brush Turkey eggs.

Male Brush Turkeys build mounds in shady areas beneath trees. They need a spot that is covered by 80-90% shade so they can control the internal temperature of their mound by adding or removing leaf litter.

The mound needs to stay at about 33 to 38 degrees C. When the mound is too hot, he scrapes leaves off the top. When it is too cold, he piles the leaves on.

Female Brush Turkeys breed and lay eggs in males’ mounds from August to December each year. They can lay up to about 24 eggs in a breeding season.

Only about one Brush Turkey out of every 200 eggs laid will survive to adulthood.

Brush Turkey eggs take about 50 days to hatch. Once they do, chicks are independent immediately. Many Brush Turkey eggs and chicks get eaten by predators such as Lace Monitors, Dingoes, and snakes.

So if you can be a buddy to Brush Turkeys in your local area, that will help ensure that this interesting Australian bird will be around for a long time to come.

Look after Brush Turkeys at your place

If a Brush Turkey is raking up the mulch from your garden and building a big mound somewhere you don’t want it, there are some simple things you can do to deter it.

Set aside an area of your garden where you don’t mind if the turkey builds his mound. Start an open compost or grass clippings pile here to encourage the turkey to start building.

In the more formal area of your garden that you want to keep neat, peg some chicken wire over your mulch pile, keep your compost in covered containers, and use river gravel around the base of trees. Plant low-growing, dense ground cover and remove some overhanging branches so the area gets more sunlight. Brush Turkeys don’t want to build mounds in areas that aren’t shady.

Simple things that you do can make a huge difference to Australia’s animals. That’s why the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife is running Backyard Buddies— to give you tips to help.

What is a backyard buddy?

Backyard buddies are the native animals that share our built-up areas, our beaches and waterways, our backyards and our parks. The Brush Turkey is a backyard buddy.

Backyard buddies are also the local people who value the living things around them, like Brush Turkeys, and are willing to protect and encourage them by doing a few simple things around their own homes. So you can be a backyard buddy.

Be a backyard buddy

It’s easy. All you have to do is care... and take a few simple steps.

Step one is to find out what Brush Turkeys do and do not like.

Brush Turkeys love:

Leaf Litter & mulch – which they scape towards their mounds to build them up.

Fruits and seeds – from native plants, which they feed on.

Insects – their main food source.

Pet food – which they pinch from the bowls of cats and dogs that are fed outside.

But they don't like:

People who remove their mounds– as they just come back and build the mound all over again

Lace Monitors, snakes, dingoes, feral pigs and dogs – that dig out the eggs in their mounds and eat them.

Insecticide – that contaminates insects that they eat and can make Brush Turkeys very sick.

Be a Brush Turkey buddy

Try to:

Avoid:

Don't be surprised if:

Find out more about your buddies

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