At the bottom of my garden . . .

At the bottom of my garden are 25 ‘rustic’ steps.

At the bottom of the steps is a HUGE mound,

On top of the mound is, The Beast!!

The Australian Brush Turkey is a megapod or mound building bird, not related at all to the common turkey. Their tail opens sideways.

The males have extremely strong legs and feet. The dominant male has pendulous yellow wattles that enlarge during the breeding season.

This one seems to have injured his left leg at some stage.

You may be thinking “How lucky to have wildlife in the backyard.” or “Why has she called it The Beast?”This is why!

The dominant male builds a huge, communal mound using a variety of dry and green vegetation and anything else in its way. This is fine in the bush but in a suburban garden it means the total destruction of any ground cover of leaf litter or mulch, any young plants and even the top layer of soil. Forget about planting any new plants and don’t even consider a vegetable garden. One brush turkey can destroy a backyard in a few hours. If you try to repair the damage, he will be back the next day to do it all over again.

The male is very determined in his mission to build the mound.

The above picture shows the male testing the temperature of the mound with his beak.

He has to maintain the nest and regulate the  temperature by adding green or dry materials accordingly. A male can return to the nest year after year once it has been established. The new mound is created on top of the previous mound which has compacted down. You can end up with a mound best described as “the size of a small car”!

Here, you can see that the mound has almost reached the top of the fence. The turkey has run out of stuff from our yard and is now scrapping weeds etc through the fence from the neighbour’s yard.

So, that’s how he gets the name, The Beast!

The male has numerous partners  who lay their eggs in the mound under supervision of the male. He seems to show them the correct place in the mound to lay. The girls then disappear with no further contact with any chicks. The male tends the nest until all eggs are hatched,  possibly 16 – 24 eggs a season.

Nothing will stop a persistent male!  So what should you do?

Don’t have an open compost heap as this is an ideal place to start a mound.

These ideas don’t work:

* hosing or shooing the bird just makes it go away until you are out of sight

* cats, the turkey isn’t bothered by cats but dogs would work

* chicken wire or similar on the ground or on the mound just gets buried

* the male seems to enjoy the tingle of electric fence wire, it gets buried

* tarpaulins get buried

* a mirror on the mound is supposed to make the bird think there is another male there already. I think he likes looking at himself.

* don’t bother telling the council, they just laugh

You could try a replica of a Powerful Owl, the only local predator of turkeys. Since we have put one in the garden the turkey has not reappeared.

The turkey is a protected bird so a more serious deterent is not possible. Once a turkey has established a mound, you just have to get used to it. Protect new plants with large stones placed around them or cut rings of plastic tubing for smaller plants. Clean up any leaf litter and forget about mulch during the breeding season (September to December, maybe earlier).

Then, sit back and enjoy the wonders of nature!

The females are no problem, they just scratch around looking for food and are easy to shoo off.

The chicks have to dig themselves out of the mound, unnoticed and then look after themselves straight away. They are cute, sort of.

I’m sure this newly hatched chick is a male. It refused to move off my washing. Can you see the look in his eye?

Brush Turkeys have become a problem over the last 5 years due to the eradication of foxes in nearby National Parks. Here, they have become pests at picnic areas. They are continuing to spread towards the Harbour Bridge so watch out! They could be in your backyard!


2 thoughts on “At the bottom of my garden . . .

    • Celia, I’m sure the freshly laid eggs would be ok and the chicks but I don’t know how the early settlers managed to eat the large birds. They would be very tough.

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