Australian Brush Turkey

(Alectura lathami)


Facts

Australian Brush Turkey IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)

 

Facts about this animal

The Australian Brush Turkey is a large gallinaceous bird with a head-body length of 60 - 70 cm. Males weigh on averages 2450 g, females 2210 g. Due to its large size, brightly coloured bare skin and mostly black plumage with whitish scaling on most of the underparts, it's an unmistakable bird within its range. It is the largest megapode, but there's considerable size variation within this species. The largest specimens occur in the South.

The male has a large, bright yellow wattle while the female’s is smaller and paler. The colour of the featherless head and neck can be much brighter during courtship, but is generally much duller outside breeding season, when the wattle shrinks. The iris is pale brown to yellow or cream. Females are slightly smaller, and they have a very small neck pouch.

Brush turkeys are solitary in nature and aggressive to each other and to other lesser species. They do not form permanent pair bonds. A successful male, with a good nest location, mates with many different females during the breeding season. The Brush Turkey is one of Australia's three "mound builders". By scratching up earth and decaying leaf matter with their powerful legs the male Brush Turkey builds huge incubation mounds that generate heat through the decay of moist organic material. Typically a mound is one metre tall and 4-5 metres in diameter and is maintained for up to nine months by the male each nesting season. The mounds are re-used every year with the dominant male maintaining the best locality.

 

After mating with the female the male allows her to deposit her eggs in the clutch that he exposes. He then aggressively drives her away and very carefully recovers the eggs with humus. Quite often the eggs that he tends in his mound have been fertilised by another male. Incubation temperature is about 33 degrees Celsius. Large monitors and feral pigs often raid the mounds stealing the eggs and disrupting the incubation temperature. The large egg (weighing about 180g) enables the hatching of a relatively advanced chick.

Did you know?
that the megapode chicks, to which the Australian brush turkey belongs, are the most precocial in the bird world? It escapes from its egg by means of a sharp kick, rather than gradually pecking its way out, like other birds. It then works its way up through the soil, sticks and leaves to emerge on the surface of the mound. It is already all but fully feathered, and almost at once it is capable of flying, feeding itself, and regulating its own temperature. It receives no attention or assistance whatsoever from the adults.


 

Factsheet
Class AVES
Order GALLIFORMES
Suborder CRACI
Family MEGAPODIDAE
Name (Scientific) Alectura lathami
Name (English) Australian Brush Turkey
Name (French) Talégalle de Latham
Name (German) Talegalla, Buschhuhn
Name (Spanish) Talégalo cabecirrojo
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed

 

 

Photo Copyright by
Vladimír Motyčka

Distribution

 


Distribution
Range Eastern Australia
Habitat Rainforest and forest, but also in scrubland, recently expanding into suburban areas, where it can come into conflict with human population as it sometimes damages gardens.
Wild population Not threatened. Common in areas of good habitat, but numbers have declined in several areas.
Zoo population 38 reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

Australian Brush Turkey

 

How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 16 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.

 

Find this animal on ZooLex

 

Photo Copyright by
Fritz Geller-Grimm

Why do zoos keep this animal

The Australian Brush Turkey is not a threatened species. Zoos keep it for educational reasons because of its unusual reproductive behaviour (building by the male of an incubator mound). Brush turkeys are also suitable animals for walk-thru exhibits allowing for bar-free encounters.