Brush Turkeys in Strata – July/August nest building season.
The Australian Brush Turkey, often called Scrub Turkey or Bush Turkey, is a common widespread species and can be considered a pest by garden owners and strata residents. This is particularly so when the males start building their mounds, usually around July/August!
They are found all over Eastern Australia from Far North Queensland to the South coast of New South Wales and have adapted well to life in cities. As a native species, they are now protected. Their population has expanded enormously due to their prodigious breeding, their amazing adaptability, and fewer predators from successful predator reduction programmes in and around Sydney, such as fox baiting.
Complaints about Brush Turkeys building their mounds and questions on what can be done to try to move them on are very common in Strata buildings. The main problem is that once the male has decided on the space to build his nesting mound with which to attract a female, they are very difficult to remove.
Why do they nest?
The nests (or mounds) are made of vegetation that creates heat as it composts to incubate their eggs. They forage for nesting material from up to 150 meters away so anything that isn’t secured down is fair game, including your compost heap. Nests can be up to 1.5 metres tall, and as much as 4 metres across which can weigh up to 4 tonnes! The mound also serves to mark their territory from other males in the area.
A strata resident flattening out the mound will only experience exasperation after finding that it’s been rebuilt, often within hours!
Why do they seem more active after substantial rain?
Their nests require moisture to assist with the composting process. After substantial rain, the male brush turkey can go into overdrive as they try to capture as much of the moisture as possible into their mound.
During dry periods, brush turkeys still required moisture for their nests to work. Searching for this moisture can result in brush turkeys raking away in the background, pot plants and other times wreaking havoc on your beautifully manicured garden beds.
What can be done to move a Brush Turkey on?
The general advice received is that relocation of brush turkeys can be very difficult and expensive. Often the removal or relocation of one bird will be quickly replaced by another.
Below are some recommendations provided by National Parks and Wildlife Service:
- Spreading a heavy tarpaulin over the mound and weighing it down, to prevent the bird from working (must only be done if there are no eggs in the mound).
- Diverting the bird’s attention to a less attractive or valuable area of your garden, by building a household compost mound.
- Ideally, the compost mound should be next to at least one large tree providing 80 to 95 per cent shade. The brush turkey may be attracted towards the area and may eventually take over the compost mound as its nesting ground.
- Lay chicken mesh over your entire garden and pin it down securely with tent pegs. A very big and time-consuming exercise. When the brush turkey tries to rake the leaves and mulch its claws get caught in the chicken mesh. They get frustrated and eventually move on.
- One way of reducing nest building is to avoid having an exposed compost heap in the garden, which will be taken over by the male as a half-built nest. Many people find them fascinating to watch as they start nest building, but by then it’s difficult to stop them from planning to build there and causing subsequent damage to the garden.
- Reduce shaded areas via trimming trees to produce a less comfortable area for nesting.
- Utilise a motion-activated “Scarecrow” Sprinkler which sprays a jet of water once an animal is sensed.
- More information can be found here.
What you can do
To discourage brush turkeys, Council recommends you:
- do not feed them
- clean up food scraps or rubbish
- don’t leave food out for other native species or pets
- cover compost heaps
- remove unnecessary sources of water from the backyard
- use heavy coverings to prevent raking (river rocks, coarse gravel and logs over standard mulch)
- use tree guards or fencing to protect young plants and trees (ask your local nursery or landscape supplier for recommend products)
- do not chase, kill or injure the birds
- do not destroy mounds or eggs
- do not disturb the birds when chicks are around the nest
- prune any vegetation above a turkey mound (reduced shade will encourage movement elsewhere)
- add a large mirror to your garden (after days of fighting its reflection, it may move on)
- cover empty mounds (heavy-duty tarpaulin, black plastic or shade cloth).
To protect your garden you could:
- use tree guards or small rocks around the base of plants to prevent them from being dug up
- develop your garden in stages and time new plantings outside of breeding season
- place chicken wire below the surface making it difficult for turkeys to rake the ground.
What impact is there insurance if someone trips over a mound for example?
Brief advice from an insurance specialist below. Should not be considered insurance or legal advice and owners should make their own investigations based on their individual policies and
“As with all possible liability issues an Owners Corporation should be aware of their liability exposure so it is suggested that they document (photos, documents etc) their attempts to rectify this situation in the event of a liability loss. Brush turkeys are a protected species, nesting periods are August to January – and approx. 50 days. So this may take a while to sort itself out unless the council are prepared to intervene & relocate the birds. In the meantime, to limit their liability exposure, they may want to up some temporary signage to be aware of the debris too – if possible some of the orange netting to stop it being spread too far or to make people more aware of the hazard.”
About Strata Life – Strata Management Services
At Strata Life we strive to take the pressure of the day to day running of a strata scheme off of the shoulders of the committee members and owners. Whilst the nature of strata itself does mean that the owners/ committee are responsible for the decisions, the pressure is reduced by having a proactive manager provide guidance with a plain sense approach and quickly actioning issues as they arise.
We appreciate Committee members often have full time jobs and busy lives. Add to this that the strata scheme is often your home where Committee members do not want to have to police other residents.
Our aim is to minimise the work and time where we can, take on the role of reminding owners and residents of the by-laws so that everyone can peacefully enjoy community living.
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Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is general information only and not legal advice. The currency, accuracy and completeness of this article (and its contents) should be checked by obtaining independent legal advice before you take any action or otherwise rely upon its contents in any way. Strata Life disclaims any liability for negligence or otherwise in any way connected with this article.