Strategies for Keeping Your Yard Free from Bush Turkeys

Keeping Your Yard Free from Bush Turkeys

Bush Turkeys or brush turkeys (Alectura lathami) are a common pest across Australia. They can dig up gardens in their endless search for food. Many homeowners look for strategies to keep their gardens free from bush turkeys. In this article, we’ll look at some of the options available.

Understanding the Brush Turkey: Friend or Foe?

Brush turkeys, while a nuisance, play an important role in the environment. They can be found in an extensive range that runs along the eastern Australian coast, from the Cape York Peninsula, Queensland south to the Illawarra region in New South Wales. 

They prefer to live in rainforests and humid forests, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be found in drier environments. In the northern areas of the country, the bush turkey can be found at higher altitudes than during the summer months, then individuals will relocate to lowland habitats during the winter months.

The brush turkey is omnivorous, eating a wide range of insects, seeds, and fallen fruits. They search for their food by raking leaf litter or by breaking open rotten logs. However, that is not unheard of for the birds to feed on ripening fruits still on the tree.

The seeds that they eat go through their digestive tract and are then deposited around their territories. These are germinated and become shoots in a matter of weeks or months.

They’re also great for cleaning up environments and removing debris such as fallen fruits that 

would otherwise go mouldy and could spread disease.

Bush Turkey Protection

Bush Turkeys are protected by Australian law with each state having unique consequences for the purposeful harming or killing of the native bird.

Queensland's Nature Conservation Act 1992 states that those who harm brush turkeys can face up to two years in prison for a class 1 offence. Those who commit a class 4 offence might face a penalty of up to A$13,345.

In New South Wales, if you shoot a brush turkey, you can face a fine of up to A$22,000.

Damage Caused by Brush Turkey

That isn’t to say that the brush turkey doesn’t cause some issues. Homeowners who experience a brush turkey invasion can find that they will often dig up gardens and vegetable plots as well as scratch at plants and on lawns.

Nesting can also be a significant issue. Brush turkeys are known as megapodes, otherwise known as mound builders. The male usually builds a single large mound of dirt and other organic matter such as rotting vegetables. These can be as large as 4m in diameter and 1m high.

Then several females will lay eggs inside the mound. The rotting vegetation will provide heat for the eggs and the male guards the eggs and maintains the temperature inside the nest by digging holes or covering them up. Males have been seen to chase off predators such as snakes.

However, despite the best efforts of the males, there tends to be a high level of predation on the eggs, especially from burrowers like goannas.

Those that do survive, the chicks will burrow out of the mound. They’re fully feathered and able to walk, which is a must as they are expected to survive on their own immediately. Within just a few hours, they can fly.

This is an interesting breeding cycle, the mess caused by the nests, hatchings and the attraction of other animals can be irritating to homeowners. Males will also return to the same nesting site year after year.

With many brush turkeys now finding homes in urban areas like Sydney, homeowners are looking for ways to get rid of brush turkeys.

Why They Choose Your Yard: What Makes Your Garden Irresistible?

Bush Turkeys Nest Management

Brush turkeys don’t just choose a random garden, though many think this might be the case. Many factors make your garden irresistible to brush turkeys. Brush turkeys, especially males, are territorial, setting up areas that make them more attractive to females.

Therefore, males will compete for resources such as access to water, food, nesting materials, and even safety, such as hiding spaces.

Gardens that have fruit or berry trees in them, vegetable gardens, and exposed soil are often prime locations for males. Females tend to wander around the different territories searching for food.

How to Get Rid of Brush Turkeys

For many, looking at ways to get rid of brush turkeys is vital. Brush turkeys can quickly turn a beautifully landscaped garden into a mess through their normal behaviours.

Identifying Effective Methods

There are numerous effective methods to humanely get rid of brush turkeys. What you need to consider is that simply relocating them using a trap and relocation is not going to be effective. For one, it might breach their legal protection, which could result in prison time or a fine. Another problem is that you might remove one male, but you’re not getting rid of the lure, which will just attract another male to the garden.

Therefore, the best practice is to ensure that your garden is not attractive to the brush turkey. You can do this through several different actions that don’t impact your enjoyment of your garden.

Steps to Get Rid of Bush Turkeys Successfully

There are several steps to getting rid of bush turkeys from your yard. These are as follows:

Step 1 - Identify what the bush turkey likes about your garden. They might be attracted by several different elements in your garden such as access to food, nesting spots, or water.

Step 2 - Remove attractants to encourage the brush turkey to find new locations.

Step 3 - Add physical barriers to protect your garden from intrusion.

Step 4 - Add other deterrents to your garden that will scare and distract brush turkeys.

Step 5 - Be more present in your garden, especially during key activity periods.

Deterrence Strategies for Bush Turkeys

There are lots of deterrents that you can use to deter brush turkeys from your garden. These include the following options.

Natural Deterrents

Natural deterrents are some of the most effective and easiest to deploy in a garden setting. Here are some options.

Sight and sound deterrents

Brush turkeys are nervous birds, they are a prey item and therefore are on constant watch to see whether or not a predator is nearby. That does mean that there are easy ways to scare them into thinking that something might be lurking nearby.

Adding sight and sound deterrents is quick, simple, and can be very effective. Many people use shiny objects like tin foil, CDs, or balloons. You can also use wind chimes in the garden.

Scarecrows or owl decoys

Another deterrent to use in the garden is decoys. Decoys that look like predators such as cats, owls, or foxes can be very effective at scaring away brush turkeys from the garden.

In addition, people can use scarecrows to imitate a person being in the garden.

Wind chimes or noisemakers

Anything that can make a sound in the garden is going to scare the bird. For example, you can use wind chimes or other noisemakers to create extra noise stimulation that will scare the birds.

Scent repellents

Like many animals, scents can play an important part in deterrence. Brush turkeys hate certain smells around their territories such as chilli flakes and citrus peels. You can also get some commercial bird repellents that might contain fox urine or other natural/safe scents.

Scents need to be applied regularly, such as every month. You might also need to reapply some scents after heavy rains as they can be washed away.

You might want to check the ingredients for any commercial scents you buy online or at other stores because there can be ingredients used on some that aren’t natural or safe.

Safe Physical Barriers

Product on the picture above: Envirobug Motion-Activated Pest Repeller Sprinkler

In addition to putting natural deterrents in the garden, you might also want to add some physical barriers to your garden. These can either be around vulnerable areas like vegetable patches or all of your garden. Bush turkeys are more reluctant to fly like some other birds, so they are unlikely to enter the garden if they can’t walk or run into it.

You might want to consider adding mesh fencing to the property, as this can be very effective. 

Any kind of physical barrier that can be used to pen in chickens can be an effective option.

Raised garden beds or plant cages

Another effective option for barriers is to use plant cages around vegetables and other food sources in the garden. Or you might want to use raised garden beds. While they’re not completely inaccessible, for some reason they are less attractive to the brush turkey and therefore can be very useful.

Envirobug Sentinel Device

Another option is to use the Envirobug sentinel device. This is a solar-powered device that uses 

three different strategies to create an inviting area for many species, including the brush turkey.

With the use of ultrasound, movement, and water, areas can be protected. The device activates as soon as something enters into range of the sensor, which will startle the bird and make them disperse.

Habitat Modification

Habitat modification is probably one of the best ways that you can deter brush turkeys from your garden. You can do lots to your garden that not only enhances the look and appearance of your garden but also discourages this bird from making its home in it.

One way is to minimise the exposed soil areas. These are prime spots for scratching and are used excessively for egg mounds. In addition, you want to remove debris, such as leaves, dead vegetation, fallen fruit, and other potential sources of food and nesting material from the garden.

If this is a regular job that you find challenging, you might want to use a gardening service. These professionals might also be able to advise what other actions you can take in the garden to stop brush turkeys from nesting in your garden.

Native plants can also be an attractant to the bird. So using these sparingly in your garden is one possibility. Though if there are plants that you can densely plant in an area, that is going to be okay, because what you will do is create a no-go area for the bird.

You might also want to look at reducing the amount of available water from vulnerable areas of the garden. The males do stand guard over the nests for a considerable amount of time, and they need a source of fresh water to maintain their health. If you can remove that from the garden, they will look for other locations to live in.

Finally, you might want to encourage natural predators in your garden. Owls and snakes might not be popular, but in comparison to brush turkeys, they cause far less damage. Build habitats that allow these creatures to include your garden as part of their territory. You can use nesting boxes and bird baths as a way to encourage predators very easily.

Try not to use marigolds, onions, or garlic in your garden as these can scare away many predators.

Bush Turkeys Nest Management

Part of the key to success when it comes to brush turkey management is to monitor and reduce nesting behaviour. Males will want to nest, but you should encourage it in certain locations and discourage it in other locations.

If you do find an existing nest, you can hide it with wire mesh or sticks. This can confuse the males and discourage further development of the nest. If it is active with eggs inside, it can make it tough for the male to maintain and improves the chances that predators will be able to gain access.

However, discouragement isn’t the only management tactic to use. Bush turkeys will choose the best available nesting spot to use. Therefore, you can make locations look very unattractive to a bush turkey, but if there are no better spots, then it might still use the same spot all the time.

Therefore, offering alternative nesting sites in less disruptive locations can be a good tactic. You might want to speak to others in the area and try to see if there are sites that are communal or on another private land that might be more suitable or acceptable (some neighbours might want to encourage the bird).

Working as a group, you can encourage the bird to nest in more acceptable locations.

And it is always important to monitor the nesting routines of the birds. If there are issues with the birds, wildlife authorities can come into the area and help you remove persistent problems. They might relocate the birds or add in other deterrents to your existing options.

Conclusion

Brush turkeys can be a significant issue for many homeowners in Australia. The bird itself is an important part of the ecosystem, but that doesn’t mean that you want it in your garden.

Therefore, it is important to make your garden as unattractive as possible to the bird. Adding elements such as wire mesh, attracting predators, and the Envirobug Sentinel device can significantly reduce the attractiveness of the garden to the bird and provide you with a brush turkey-free garden.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I identify signs of bush turkey presence?

There are numerous signs of bush turkeys. One is the mound used for nesting, another is the feeding behaviour such as scratching on the ground.

What are effective scare tactics for deterring bush turkeys?

Bush turkeys are prey animals. So any sudden noise or movement can be an effective scare tactic for the bird.

How do you get rid of a bush turkey safely?

To get rid of a bush turkey, it is best to make the environment as unattractive as possible. 

Ensuring no access to food and water is the quickest way to get rid of the bush turkey.

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