More facts about the Brushturkey

  • The Brushturkey chicks are covered with soft brown feathers when hatched but their wing feathers are almost fully developed.
  • As soon as they dig their way out of the mound chicks can run fast.
  • Brushturkey chicks prefer to hide in dense scrub like lantana rather than in open rainforest.
  • In places with a high density of cats or foxes very few Brushturkey chicks survive more than a week or so.
  • Brushturkey chicks live a rather solitary life, not teaming up with others for more than an hour or two.

  • Females lay up to 18 eggs per year.
  • Eggs incubate for around 7 weeks before chicks hatch.
  • Brushturkey chicks hatch up to 1 metre underground.
  • Some Brushturkey eggs are eaten by predators (lizards, cats, foxes, dingoes).
  • Some Brushturkey eggs are die from overheating.

  • Brushturkey eggs are incubated at temperatures ranging from 27˚C to 37˚C but most commonly around 33˚C.
  • When the mound is first built, temperatures can rise to 40˚C but this settles to under 40˚C in three or so weeks.
  • Australian megapodes or mound builders rely on micro-organisms that cause vegetable matter to decay to produce heat.
  • Dampness helps the vegetable matter to ferment, which in turn generates heat.
  • If mound temperatures are warmer (37˚C) it appears that more females will be produced and at cooler temperatures (32˚C) more males will be produced.

  • The male looks after the mound and adjusts its temperature.
  • The male uses its beak to test the temperature of the mound like we use a thermometer.
  • If the male finds the mound too warm he will remove some of the decaying covering.
  • If the male finds the mound too cool he will add decaying covering.
  • Heat from the sun helps warm the soil or sand near the top of the mound.

  • The Brushturkey's natural environment, lowland rain forest, has been greatly destroyed for agriculture or housing. Brushturkey are not currently threatened but are definitely under pressure.
  • In places Brushturkeys build mounds in well mulched gardens. This sometimes upsets the gardens owner.
  • Adult males build the nesting mound. It may take up to 5 weeks to build.
  • Many female often lay eggs in the same mound.
  • Brushturkey eggs are quite large compared with the size of the adult birds.

  • Megapodes do not build a nest like other birds but bury them in the ground or in a volcano to incubate and hatch alone.
  • All megapods lay their eggs in holes in the ground or in mounds of dirt and vegetable matter.
  • Brushturkeys scrape up mounds of leaves and dirt to build nests. Because of land clearing their old range has decreased so they have moved into places with suitable materials.
  • The "volcano" mentioned above that some megapodes use is really the hot sand found near some volcanic places.
  • Many people mulch their gardens with straw or wood chips or bark. All these are good mound building materials

  • John Gould, another famous ornithologist, renamed the bird the Australian Brush Turkey.
  • The bird that Gould saw and examined was "collected" by John Gilbert who travelled with the explorer Ludwig Leichhardt from near Brisbane to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
  • Archaeologists have discovered the bones of two extinct species of Australian Megapode. One larger than the present living ones and one quite smaller.

  • The Brushturkeys we see belong to the race lathami.
  • The scientific name for the Brushturkey is Alectura lathami.
  • Scientific names are written with a capital for the first word and a lower-case letter starting the second word. Both are printed in itallics.
  • The Brushturkey's scientific name honours the man who first described them, Dr John Latham.
  • Latham saw the Brushturkey has a bare-head and called it a vulture.

  • Brushturkeys are mainly ground living birds but can fly.
  • Brushturkeys often roost (spend the night) high in trees.
  • Brushturkeys are mostly solitary birds.
  • Brushturkeys prefer to live in forest places including rain forest.
  • Because so much forest has disappeared they now often live in the suburbs particularly bushy suburbs.

  • A female Brushturkey has a small yellow collar.
  • Female Brushturkeys are smaller than males.
  • Juvenile (young) Brushturkeys don't have a collar.
  • Brushturkey chicks are all brown with yellow legs and about the size of a pigeon.

  • Some people know Brushturkeys as Scrub Turkeys or Bush Turkeys. Brush is the word used by early British settlers in Australia instead of Bush.
  • A Brushturkey is usually about 60 to 70 cm long. This measurement is taken from the tip of its bill to the tip of its tail when it is lying stretched out on a flat surface.
  • A male Brushturkey has a yellow "wattle" at the base of its neck. This wattle is bare skin that can stretch.
  • A sub-species of Brushturkey lives on Cape York. It's wattle is purplish.

  • Brushturkeys belong to a family of birds known as Megapodes.
  • The word Megapode means big foot or feet (mega – big; pode – foot)
  • Megapodes are found in other places including New Guinea and some Pacific islands.
  • Brushturkeys are found in eastern Australia from Cape York to about Sydney.
  • Other Australian megapodes are the Orange-footed Scrubfowl and the Malleefowl.

  • Brushturkey eggs are laid in huge mounds of decaying vegetation collected by the male bird.
  • The heat created by the decaying vegetation incubates the eggs.
  • When the chick hatches and gets to the surface of the mound, it must fend for itself without any help from adult birds.
  • The chick has feathers and can fly within a few hours of leaving the nest mound.

Return to the Brushturkey survey project page

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