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Australian Brush Turkey Fact File

Alectura lathami

Weight

2.2-2.4kg

(4.8-5.4lbs)

Length

60-70cm

(23.6-27.6in)

Lifespan

Wild 25 years

Captive 25 years

Diet

Omnivore

Fruits, Insects

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

The Australian brush turkey is as their name suggests found in Australia along the east coast.

Males are most notable for building a large nest which is a mound of vegetation they scrape up off the ground. These are used to incubate the eggs of multiple females with which the male mates. Chicks receive no further care from their parents.

Their body features bright coloration with the head featuring bare red skin and the back covered with black feathers.

Numbers of the Australian brush turkey have been reduced through hunting and habitat destruction.

Learn more about these brilliant birds by reading on below.

Appearance

The Australian brush turkey has black feathers across its back which end abruptly at the neck where their is a yellow wattle at the base. This hangs lower down on the breast during breeding season. The head and neck features bare, red skin. A ridge of dense, black bristles run down the center of the head.

In the north of the range some population have a pale, blue wattle.

They have strong legs which end with four claws which are used for digging in the leaf litter.

These birds have a laterally flattened tail.

Australian brush turkeys have a black, slightly hooked beak.

Males tend to be large than females. They have an average weight of 2.45kg (5.4lbs) compared to 2.2kg (4.8lbs) for females. Their body measures 60-70cm (23.6-27.6in) long.

Diet


Australian brush-turkeys are omnivores. They feed on fallen fruit, seed and invertebrates.

Food is found by scratching around on the forest floor. They may also break open a rotten log to access insects inside.

Australian Brush Turkey

Range

Australia is the native home of the Australian brush-turkey. Here they can be found along the east coast from the tip of the Cape York Peninsula in Queensland down to the south of Sydney in New South Wales.

These animals have also been introduced to Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia.

Habitat

They make their home in rainforest, temperate and tropical forests, wet eucalypt forests, monsoon and gallery forest and dry scrub.

Australian brush turkeys are often seen near human settlements especially in parklands.

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Reproduction

The nest mound is active from August to February.

Male brush turkeys create a nest from soil and plant material which helps to attract a mate. It may take them up to a month to finish the construction. These massive nests to grow to the size of a small car. He may use the same nest for multiple years.

Both males and females have a beak which is sensitive to the temperature of the nest allowing it to maintain it at the optimum level.

These mounds generate heat which helps to incubate the eggs. Once the mother deposits the eggs she will leave. The male remains nearby to defend the mound against threats.

Females may produce up to 20 each year. These will come from mating with multiple males and may each be deposited in different nests.

Chicks emerge from the nest by digging through the dirt up to the surface after a 50 day incubation. This may take up to two days to complete.

Parents do not provide any care to the chicks. They are able to fly straight away and have instincts to forage and stay safe from predators. At hatchling the chicks are fluffy and brown.

As few as one in 200 eggs which are laid grow in to an adult bird.

They reach sexual maturity between 1 and 3 years old.

Behavior

The Australian brush turkey produces vocalizations such as a vibrating low grunt. Males produce a loud, booming call.

These birds may live in groups which are headed by a dominant male along with several females.

They are clumsy when in flight and only take to the skies if threatened.

Australian Brush Turkey

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the Australian brush-turkey include dingoes, lace monitors and snakes.

Introduced species such as feral pigs and dogs will also pose a threat.

Habitat destruction may be causing a decline in their population.

Australian brush turkeys were almost driven to extinction during the 1930s as they represented an easy source of meat and eggs during the great depression when jobs and food were both hard to come by.

Native animals were protected in law within Australia during 1972 and since then numbers of the Australian brush turkey have started to increase.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature believe the population of Australian brush turkeys is declining but there are still enough for them to be considered least concern.

Quick facts

Australian brush turkeys are also known as scrub turkeys.

These birds are thought to be the most ancient member of their family which dates back 30 million years.

They are the largest member of the megapodidae (large-footed birds) found in Australia.

Australian Brush Turkey

Photo Credits

Top

Graham Winterflood, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle One

Under License

Middle Two

Jim Bendon, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom

James Niland from Brisbane, Australia, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Abc.net.au. 2021. Five reasons to love brush turkeys. [online] Available at: <https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2017-01-17/five-reasons-to-love-brush-turkeys/7199724> [Accessed 2 July 2021].

BirdLife International. 2018. Alectura lathami. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22678551A131902671. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22678551A131902671.en. Downloaded on 02 July 2021.

Backyard Buddies. 2021. Brush Turkey. [online] Available at: <https://backyardbuddies.org.au/backyard-buddies/brush-turkey/> [Accessed 2 July 2021].

Walkaboutpark.com.au. 2021. Australian Brush Turkey. [online] Available at: <http://www.walkaboutpark.com.au/birds/australian-brush-turkey> [Accessed 2 July 2021].

Animals.sandiegozoo.org. 2021. Australian Brush-turkey | San Diego Zoo Animals & Plants. [online] Available at: <https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/australian-brush-turkey-0> [Accessed 2 July 2021].

The Australian Museum. 2021. Australian Brush-turkey. [online] Available at: <https://australian.museum/learn/animals/birds/australian-brush-turkey/> [Accessed 2 July 2021].

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