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1

Australian Brush-turkey

(Alectura lathami)
Alternate name(s): "Scrub-turkey", "Wattled Talegallus"; race "purpureicollis": "Barnard's Scrub-turkey"
Aboriginal name(s): Race "lathami": "wagun" ("woggoon"), "wirrila" [gamilaraay, yuwaalaraay], "gweela"
Race "purpureicollis": "wundoora"

Size: 60-70 cm
Weight: 1.2-2.6 kg
Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Australian Brush-turkey at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "lathami"

ADULT

MALE

Close-up frontal view of an adult male Australian Brush-turkey; note the prominent yellow collar (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, October 2012]

Close-up lateral view of an adult Australian Brush-turkey (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, October 2012]

Lateral view of an Australian Brush-turkey acting as a "weather vane" (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, November 2012]

FEMALE

Near-frontal view of a female Australian Brush-turkey high up in a tree (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, June 2013]

Lateral view of a female Australian Brush-turkey trying to evade the photographer by climbing up into a eucalypt tree, from where it launched itself into downhill flight to further increase the distance
[Deriah Aboriginal Area, NSW, December 2007]

Near-dorsal view of a female Australian Brush-turkey
[Dorrigo NP, NSW, 2004]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Near-frontal view of an immature Australian Brush-turkey
[Coffs Harbour, NSW, August 2015]

Immature Australian Brush-turkey in its natural habitat, on the ground in rainforest
[Dorrigo NP, NSW, 2004]

Lateral view of an Australian Brush-turkey in dark rainforest undergrowth with copious leaf litter
[Wingham Brush NR, NSW, June 2011]

Young Australian Brush-turkey foraging in leaf litter in rainforest

Race "purpureicollis"

ADULT

FEMALE

Near-frontal view of an adult Australian Brush-turkey; note the characteristic purple wattle that gives this race its name (photo courtesy of M. Mearns)
[Punsand, Cape York Peninsula, QLD, March 2008]

Lateral view of an adult Australian Brush-turkey (photo courtesy of M. Mearns)
[Punsand, Cape York Peninsula, QLD, March 2008]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Aug - Feb Eggs: 3 - 30 Incubation period: 50 days Fledging age: N/A

A male Australian Brush-turkey will try to attract a female to his mound, with the goal for her to mate with him and lay her eggs in his mound. The heat of leaf litter fermentation and of the sun is used to incubate the eggs. The male will take care of temperature and moisture control in the mound during the incubation period. Hatching chicks will leave the mound and be independent immediately, fending for themselves. This feature is common to all Australian mound nesters. It is the reason why one can find solitary youngsters (as the one shown in a photo above).

Nest

"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Mound Material: Leaf litter Height above ground: N/A

The mound shown below is about 2.5 m in diameter and apparently only about 50 cm deep (unless there is a depression in the ground below).

Nesting mound of an Australian Brush-turkey 30 km East of Narrabri, NSW. One can see fresh scratch marks, where material had recently been re-distributed
[Deriah Aboriginal Area, NSW, December 2007]

Male Australian Brush-turkey looking on as a female lays her eggs into a hollow he had scratched into his mound
[Wingham Brush NR, NSW, September 2011]

Pair of Australian Brush-turkeys on their nesting mound in a garden (photo courtesy of N. Holdsworth)
[Caboolture, QLD, January 2013]

Here a young obsessive, compulsive scratcher learning its business
[Wingham Brush NR, NSW, September 2011]

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 92 x 63 mm Colour: Plain white (but normally soiled) Shape: Elliptical

Although common and widespread, Australian Brush-turkeys are vulnerable. The reason for this, apart from loss of habitat, is the very low efficiency of their breeding efforts. A mound can contain up to about 50 eggs, but only about 1 in 200 eggs yields an individual that will reach maturity, i.e. only one out of every four mounds.

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Males territorial Mobility: Sedentary Elementary unit: Solitary

During the breeding season males can be found with a harem of females, in communal life, rather than solitary. While together, the birds use communal roosts in trees.

Australian Brush-turkeys can become quite tame - so much so that in some areas such as picnic and barbeque spots, but also people's gardens, they are perceived as a nuisance. The compulsive scratching of the males, in particular, is often found to be annoying by gardeners, who just seem to have a different sense of order than the birds...

Curious Australian Brush-turkey testing a lounge for its suitability as a vantage point (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, July 2013]

Food, Diet

Adults: Seeds, fruit, small animals Dependents: As adults Water intake: ?

Australian Brush-turkeys are omnivores. They feed on seeds and fruit and also small animals they find in the leaf litter of preferably dense bushland.

This Australian Brush-turkey seems to be feeding on grass, unless it is picking grubs out of the lawn (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[O'Reilly's Plateau, Lamington NP, Gold Coast, QLD, October 2015]

Call(s)/Song

For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

bturkey_20140522.mp3 lathami
(SE QLD)
? © MD

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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