With an East Coast Low sitting over the Tasman Sea, last week’s weather was pretty cold, wet, and windy. I didn’t venture out much, but on Thursday when I was walking past North Sydney Demonstration School I came across this male turkey working on his nest :
The nest was taller and more neatly conical than other turkey nests I’ve seen, and I suspect it may have been tidied up by human hand. This was the big picture:
As the breeding season has just begun and the nest seemed finished, I decided to return the next morning. I was lucky - there were now two turkeys; a female had joined the resident male (distinguishable by his long yellow neck pouch). However, she didn’t look convinced by his efforts to hollow out a space for her egg:
So the male went back to work while she waited:
He dug deeper:
The female wandered off for a snack as he laboured on:
Eventually the male seemed to think he’d met the female’s specifications, and went off to look for her.
She returned, and the male waited hopefully while she inspected his work:
Seemingly it passed muster, though I wasn’t able to see any actual egg being laid:
The male returned to bury the egg:
When I returned on Saturday morning, I found the turkey sitting on the school fence contemplating his achievement:
He hopped down to check the nest. Yesterday’s egg-hollow was completely covered by fresh debris:
There weren't any more females around that I saw on this third time, but he must have had success with several others because when I went back on the fourth day (Sunday morning - today) I found him checking the temperature of a different egg-hollow. It was warm enough - you can see the steam rising from it into the cold morning air:
Satisfied, the turkey began to cover it up again with mulch from the edges:
I left him to it and walked on. When I had gone a few hundred metres further, I found another male (with a much less impressive neck pouch!) building his nest:
Returning home I scored the trifecta – a third male had begun building his nest in the Australian Catholic University near our house! It wasn’t there three days ago, so he may have been shooed off during an earlier attempt. Now, he was working overtime to catch up with the others.
Back in the 1930s there was some thought that Brush Turkeys or Scrub Turkeys (Alectura lathami) might become extinct. Since then they have managed a successful comeback, gradually extending their range south into Sydney. They were unknown in North Sydney ten years ago. Now, with three nests within 400m of each other in North Sydney, each containing perhaps 20 eggs, and no known susceptibility to COVID-19, the turkeys are threatening to take over the place!
I’ve written previously about my earlier experience with turkey nests here . That post included this footnote about them:
“If you’re not familiar with brush turkeys, that huge compost heap of a nest is actually quite a neat adaptation. After mating, one or more females lay their eggs in shallow pits in the nest, after which their job is done. The male buries each egg beneath soil and plant debris, which then decomposes. The heat generated by this decomposition is enough to incubate the eggs. The male checks each egg's temperature from time to time, adding or removing debris to keep the temperature at the right level. After hatching, the poults dig their way out and go their own way – there is no further parental care.”
Videos: As well as still photos I took a couple of brief videos of:
- The first turkey covering up his egg hollow this morning, and
- The third turkey collecting the earth and debris for his nest .
(I’ve kept the videos separate from the blog to avoid slowing the site down, as video files are much bigger than jpegs.)