City turkeys spread their wings
RESIDENTS illegally catching and relocating brush turkeys have
unintentionally helped spread the garden-busting birds all over
A study has found the birds have gone from being rarely seen 40 years
ago to occupying 73 greater Brisbane suburbs, including the city heart.
The birds, black with a red head and neck, are a little larger than a
They are loved and sometimes hated, the latter for the cocks' habit of
tearing apart fashionable rainforest gardens as they build a mound to
which females will be attracted.
A paper written by Griffith University senior lecturer in ecology
Darryl Jones says the spread of the birds through the suburbs is a
His work with Birds Queensland found that hunting up to the 1950s had
put such pressure on the turkeys they were rarely seen.
But they made a dramatic recovery from the mid to late '70s after
legislation was enacted that protected most native birds except species
such as duck and quail.
In the '70s they were reported at just a few spots such as Mt Coot-tha,
Corinda, Indooroopilly and Chapel Hill.
In 1983, they were reported in 27 Brisbane suburbs.
Now the birds with attitude are found at the Botanic Gardens off George
St, at Spring Hill, Petrie Tce and as widely spread as Ironbark, 50km
west of the CBD, to Carindale in the southeast, Petrie 27km north and
Cornubia, 32km south.
Dr Jones said the most significant finding was brush turkeys in suburbs
far from any previously known breeding populations in dry forests which
were not their habitat.
"I was totally surprised at the extent of coverage. It's bizarre," he
Turkeys were living at places such as Toohey Forest on the city's
southside and nesting in nearby back yards where gardens were watered.
"It's an interesting ecological experiment that is going on.
"I've got no hesitation in saying this massive expansion is almost
entirely due to birds being taken places by humans."
Dr Jones said interfering residents were either capturing the birds
themselves or having animal pest control companies do so.
"And the more they end up in back yards, the more dramas occur," he
But few birds living in the human-dominated environment managed to
successfully raise chicks, with cats a major predator.
The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service estimates as few as one in
200 chicks survive.
Birds Queensland sought the study in which 126 people took part for 14
months up to March last year.
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