Brush Turkey

We have a brush turkey visiting, hopefully not living in, our garden.

Australian Brush Turkey

Yesterday we spotted her (drab colouring, no wattle means female)  in our garden.  As we approached, she flew up into the neighbour’s oak tree. She let me get pretty close to take a reasonable photo. Though she didn’t seem to like me stalking her, she didn’t seem overly fussed either.

Female Brush Turkey

Our chickens were not impressed. They all 3 hovered at the top of the garden. Gone was the brave charging I’ve seen if a “large bird” like a raven or currawong lands in their territory. I suppose “large bird” has now taken on a new meaning for my chooks. Brush turkeys are 60-70 cm long (that’s about 2 feet) with a wingspan of 85 cm.

Because I’m a bit of a native fauna fan, the appearance of this massive bird thrilled me. Because I’m a bit of a gardening fan, the appearance of this massive bird terrified me. They can wipe out a back yard in a day.

Brush turkeys are megapodes and build huge mounds (up to 2 metres high and 4 metres wide) of organic litter. They collect plants, leaves, twigs, mulch, compost, even rocks from the local area to form their nest. During the breeding season (Aug-Jan) the male builds the mound for the females to lay their eggs in. The heat from the decomposition of the mound (just like a healthy compost heap) keeps the eggs nice and warm.

Once they start building their mound, deterring brush turkeys is nigh on impossible. Covering the mound with a tarp is the best bet, but even that doesn’t sound promising. Making an attractive compost heap can sometimes attract a brush turkey to your compost rather than your veggies, but then the compost pile becomes an incubator and so you probably should leave it alone until the babies have all hatched which takes about 2 months. And they return to the same mound every year and I don’t think I want a group (they live in a collective) setting up house in my backyard.

This particular brush turkey shouldn’t have been making a mound since that’s a male’s job. But she paid special attention to our compost pile. Maybe she thought a male had made this for her?

Brush Turkey on the Compost Pile

Okay, so because of the various invaders in my garden: cats, possums (no relation to American opossums), bandicoots, all manner of birds (parrots, ravens and currawongs) and the standard destructive insects (stink bugs, caterpillars, fruit flies and aphids) I have been forced to fence off, spray with home-made deterrents and, when all else fails, put up with a moderate level of food loss. In order to protect my garden from a brush turkey (no relation to the American turkey) invasion I think I might need to fit out my backyard with laser-guided gun emplacements.

What’s next – locusts?


About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
This entry was posted in Chickens, Garden, Nature and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Brush Turkey

  1. Max says:

    They look kinda like a buzzard, are they omnivorous? or carrion eaters?

    • They aren’t buzzards – more like big chickens with really big feet. They’re omnivorous and eat insects and fruit and berries they find when scratching around. I guess they eat a LOT of insects and…. to keep that big body ticking.

  2. Oh dear, I hope she doesn’t take up residence!

    • Apparently you can have up to 50 eggs in one mound (from several females). Imagine what kind of chaos a brood like that can produce!

      • I’ve seen it at first hand when I was living up on the Sunshine Coast – ruination of gardens, etc! I kept thinking of the mess your chooks make and began magnifying it and thought, have to wish she doesn’t decide it’s a good place to stay 🙂

        • I lived in Darwin for a couple of years and had scrub fowl in the garden (one of Australia’s other Megapodes). The mounds were amazing. The noise, irritating. The destruction, thorough. I didn’t garden then and I loved them. If their larger cousins settle in my garden in Sydney, I’m DOOMED!

          I too thought of my chooks on steroids and I shuddered in fear 🙂

  3. Love the post. I had no idea that you had a native turkey in Australia. I hope she flies off to someone else’s backyard. Someone who doesn’t have chickens or mush of a garden.

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