Bush turkeys eye off local chooks

MY THREE black chooks have every reason to be nervous.

They need not worry about ending up in the pot, but there is a chance of them being attacked by fowl intruders being seen in increasing numbers.

Bush turkeys - or correctly, Australian brush turkeys - are exploding in suburbia.

"The urban populations in Sydney and along the coast to Brisbane are expanding dramatically and rapidly," says the foremost expert on the Australian brush turkey, Associate Professor Darryl Jones of Griffith University.

"The same thing is not happening in forest areas, where they are either declining or disappearing."

My dog is not alone in struggling to tell the turkeys and chooks apart and he is not the only one.

"Many, many black chickens get raped by turkeys and I've been shown a photo that looks absolutely like you'd imagine an Australorp-brush turkey cross would look," he said.

Eager male turkeys are now building compost mounds to attract females to lay enormous eggs within, where the moist warmth will hatch their young, while he guards the mound from predators.

This activity earns this protected species the ire of many gardeners.

"People try all sorts of things - they sit waiting with water pistols and hoses," said Coffs Harbour City Council biodiversity officer Nigel Cotsell.

He believes increased fox baiting by landholders, national parks and council rangers is making life easier for bush turkeys in urban areas.

At Dorrigo, rangers have observed no change in the bush turkey population in the national park, but at the urban fringes of coastal forests, increases have been noticed.

"Changes in gardening styles towards mulched native plants are encouraging wildlife into backyard gardens," says acting area manager for Coffs Coast NPWS David Malver.

Facts sheets on managing bush turkey damage in gardens can be found at the www.environment.nsw.gov.au.

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