Bush Turkeys

Bush turkeys are everywhere!

But you might be surprised to hear that when we moved to Sydney, there were none. We came from North Queensland where they are, of course, everywhere.

They didn’t appear in our suburb until about 2012-ish and made rapid progress through the leafy parks and gardens and can now even be seen in highly urbanised areas. They are birds of gulleys and rainforests, so I was surprised I even saw one in Parramatta the other day.

The bush turkey, official name Australian Brush Turkey is not related to the American turkey. Everyone calls them bush turkeys in Sydney, just like “magpie larks” are called Peewees in Queensland. Legend goes that settlers ate the turkeys, but they apparently taste like crap. No one tries these days, because they’re protected.

At the end of winter, the male turkey’s head becomes vivid red and the yellow band around his neck enlarges and becomes flabby. And he starts SCRATCHING. And scratching and scratching all the loose material (and no-so-loose material) out of the gardens, from between the plants, from the lawn, from your newly-mulched beds, from the heap of mulch you had delivered on the nature strip and haven’t done anything with yet, from the compost heap. He makes a serious mess of the place and he is obsessed about it.

He rakes all this stuff into a giant HEAP in a shady place somewhere.

And then he courts the ladies, as many as possible. They dig into the heap to lay their eggs in the leaf litter. He spends days herding ladies, jumping on them, pecking them if they threaten to stray and chasing off the other males, as well as small dogs, cats and other birds. They tend to ignore humans.

When the ladies done laying eggs, he goes back to scratching. Stuff onto the heap if the temperature of the decomposing leaf litter is too low, or stuff off the heap if it’s too warm. All day, day in, day out.

Then the chicks dig themselves out of the heap and they… leave. He doesn’t feed them, and doesn’t care for them. The females are long gone. The chick is dark brown and fluffy and is the only bird in the world that can fly straight out of the egg. People sometimes bring them into animal rescue places thinking they’re a runaway chicken.

The male’s colours fade and he goes back to just scratching around to find worms. Until the process repeats next year.

Comments are closed.