Do brush turkeys drive you mad?

IT'S well and truly winter and male brush turkeys are piling their mounds high in readiness for breeding over the coming months.

This native bird can drive some people around the twist as it scrapes away their garden mulch.

Backyard Buddies wants you to know brush turkeys are fascinating birds and there are some simple things you can do to reduce their impact on your garden.

"A male brush turkey scrapes leaf litter into a mound by flicking it backward with his well-clawed feet," Ms Susanna Bradshaw, CEO of the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife, said.

"Through a lot of hard work and effort, his mound can get up to four metres in diameter and 1.5 metres high. It can weigh as much as small car. The mound is used to incubate brush turkey eggs in successive years, but unfortunately it can also come about at the expense of some nicely manicured gardens.

"Brush turkeys love suburban gardens because they are often shady, well watered, have a few native plants, and contain lots of mulch for them to scrape up. If you've got a brush turkey building a mound in your backyard, it's no use chasing it away or removing the mound. The bird will only doggedly return and start all over again. Their urge to nest is unstoppable.

"The mound is actually quite a fascinating structure. As the organic material in it gets wet and decomposes, it creates heat, and makes the inside of the mound a rather tropical 33 to 38˚C.If the mound gets too hot inside, the brush turkey scrapes some leaves off the top. If it becomes too cool, he piles more organic material onto it, and in this way regulates its temperature.

"Many predators will visit a brush turkey mound as they know it is a fantastic source of food. The only defence a male Brush Turkey has is to flick leaf litter at the predator until it becomes bothered enough to leave. As the predator turns tail to flee, the Brush Turkey pecks ferociously at its tail to drive it away faster.

"Once a female comes to visit, the brush turkeys mate and she buries her egg inside the mound. She then wanders off to mate with other males and lay eggs in other mounds. She can lay dozens of eggs during the breeding season from August to December, and many different females will visit one male brush turkey's mound.

"An egg takes about 50 days to hatch. As soon as the chick breaks free, there is no tender loving care waiting for it. Father brush turkey flings leaf litter at the chick and it has to go off straight away and fend for itself out in the big bad world."

Because of predators, and threats such as cars and swimming pools, a brush turkey's chance of surviving to adulthood is as little as about 1 in 200.

Tips for Living with Brush Turkeys

Keep part of your garden for animals such as the brush turkey and keep part for your own purposes. Divert the Brush Turkey's attention to the part of the garden where you're happy for it to be by building a big, open compost heap there.

Brush turkeys will only build their mounds in areas that are 80 to 95% shaded.

Feed your pets indoors, as bush turkeys will drive pets away from outdoor food bowls and eat the food themselves.

Try planting some low-growing, densely-packed native plants to provide thick ground cover.

Spread some river gravel or heavy pebbles around the base of trees and plants to protect the roots.

Peg chicken wire over your mulch pile as brush turkeys won't like the feeling of scratching it.

Put heavy rocks or bricks on top of the lid of your compost bin so brush turkeys can't get at the organic material inside.

"The survival of this species depends on the good will of people. The best solution is if Brush Turkeys and people can live together," Ms Bradshaw said.

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