Sunday, February 04, 2007

Australian Brush-turkey

A couple of years ago I was sitting on my deck overlooking the back yard when I noticed something jump onto the back fence and perch there. It was a bird. A big, black bird with a featherless red head and a yellow throat wattle. I recognised it immediately as an Australian Brush-turkey (Alectura lathami), more commonly known as a scrub turkey. What shocked me was what was it doing on my back fence? The only times I'd ever seen a scrub turkey was at picnic areas in national parks. They're the birds that will annoyingly steal your food if you're not alert. My back yard was not it's natural habitat. In fact, the nearest bushland it could have come from was several kilometres away.
So seeing this bird in my back yard was something out of the ordinary. It soon disappeared into a neighbouring yard and I lost sight of it. It wouldn't last long, I thought, as I knew many houses in the neighbourhood had dogs and cats. If it survived the local domesticated fauna then it was sure to become roadkill. It was only a matter of time. While I was pleased to see the scrub turkey, I was still a little saddened at the fate that I was sure would befall it.
Months later though, I spotted it as I was driving up my street. It flashed across my path and disappeared into some bushes. I was happy it was still alive yet wondered how it had been surviving. What was it eating? Where was it sleeping?
Probably about six months passed before I spotted it again. I had virtually given up hope of seeing it again and assumed it had fallen prey to the dangers of suburbia. My next sighting was in the yard of one of my back neighbours. They have chickens they let out of a cage during the day to roam around the yard. That wily scrub turkey was helping itself to the chicken feed in the cage! It wasn't long before my neighbour noticed and came running out. The scrub turkey took fright and raced off before spreading it's wings and jumping over an adjoining fence to safety.
It has been several months since I'd last seen the scrub turkey. Between each sighting I have always assumed it had died. Then just the other day I spotted it in the front yard of the house across the street. I quickly grabbed my camera and took some hurried shots. It's funny because I felt like I was trying to get a photo of some strange creature like Bigfoot or something. It's just so odd to see a scrub turkey in my area.

The elusive scrub turkey. Has it spotted me?

It's spotted me and it's off!

Going, going, going....

...and with a short flying jump onto the roof it's gone.

Until next time, scrub turkey...

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