The Australian Brush-Turkey Alectura lathami, also frequently called the Scrub Turkey or Bush Turkey, is a common species of mound-building birds from the family Megapodiidae found in eastern Australia.
The bird’s wattle (the fleshy lobe hanging down from the base of its neck) varies in colour with its age, gender and location.
In the southern parts of its range, the male Brush Turkey has a bright yellow wattle, while in other areas its wattle is light blue. Females and younger birds have dull yellow wattles.
Brush Turkey chicks look much like quails, with plain rich brown feathers over their entire bodies. As they mature they lose the feathers on their heads and necks, and the bare skin turns a deep pink colour.
The Australian brush Turkey lives in damp forests like in rainforests and neighbouring eucalypt forest areas. It remains in a particular location throughout the year, where it breeds and searches in the forest leaf litter for fruits, seeds and small animals.
This fascinating bird is abundant in favourable habitats. However, since European colonisation its numbers have declined - particularly near cities.
In places where it shares its breeding and foraging grounds with humans, the survival of the species depends largely on the goodwill of householders.
The Australian Brush Turkey belongs to the family of birds known as megapodes. Megapodes are found in the East Indies, Australasia and Polynesia. They construct mounds of vegetation to incubate their eggs.
Using vegetation gathered from the forest floor around them, male Brush Turkeys build a large and distinctive incubation heap, which can be up to 4 meters wide and up to 2 meters high.
A female will then lay between 18 and 24 white eggs in the heap, with intervals of two to three days between the laying of each egg.
As the vegetation in the heap decomposes, it gives off heat which warms the eggs. The optimum incubation temperature is between 33°C and 35°C.
The male Brush Turkey maintains this temperature by removing and adding layers to the heap. Temperature regulation is the only assistance the parents provide to their offspring.
The young Brush turkeys hatch after about seven weeks, fully feathered and able to run. They dig their way through the layers of the mound into the open air.
Brush turkeys are generally wary of humans. However, they can become very tame around picnic grounds and homes, particularly if they are fed.