Another thanksgiving post, but this one about an Australian brush turkey (Alectura lathami). Despite their common name, brush turkeys aren’t closely related to New World turkeys and belong to the Megapodiidae, a family of birds distributed across Australasia. Megapode means “large foot,” and they are well known for their mound-building behavior, often wreaking havoc in suburban backyards by uprooting vegetation and creating quite a mess of strewn leaf litter. The male brush turkey is responsible for creating the mound, which can span over 4 meters wide and 1.5 meters tall. He hopes to impress wandering females to mate and lay eggs in his large fortress. During incubation the male will refine the structure to regulate heat in the nest, allocating leaf litter accordingly. Upon hatching the chicks will use their large legs and claws to break the egg shell and climb up the center of the mound. Megapodes are considered superprecocial, in that they can live independently and fly just hours after hatching . I took this shot a little over a year ago, just as the brush turkey fanned out its tail feathers for plucking and grooming.
In the Northern Territory where I worked with the frillies, they are replaced by the closely related orange-footed scrubfowl (Megapodius reinwardt), a much smaller megapode. In my front yard I had two very diligent parents, building and upkeeping their massive mound at dawn every day. I’ll have to do some digging through my files to find the footage. Their distribution extends through New Guinea and the Lesser Sunda islands, so funnily enough I got to see more of them again on Komodo island.