Born in a Compost Heap

Australian brush turkeys don’t incubate their eggs and they don’t feed or protect their young.  The species survives because their eggs are incubated in compost heaps and their chicks are born super-precocial.

The compost heaps, called incubator mounds, are huge — about 10 feet wide and 4.5 feet deep.  Brush turkeys construct them by scraping a pit and filling it with a huge pile of decaying leaf litter covered over with loose soil.

Several females lay eggs in the same mound but after laying the females leave them alone.

Because temperature is key to incubation the males tend the mounds, testing the temperature by inserting their beaks and adding or removing leaf litter to maintain the correct 91.40 to 950F temperature.

Parental care ends there.

Unlike American wild turkeys (no relation), brush turkeys don’t protect their young.  The chicks hatch inside the mound and dig their way out.  When they emerge they’re able to walk, feed themselves and even fly!  They’re not just precocial, they’re super-precocial.  They fly better than the adults.

Watch this video from Science Friday (5 Nov 2010) to see how well a baby brush turkey can fend for himself.

(video from this article on  Science Friday)

One thought on “Born in a Compost Heap

  1. Boy this just blew me away. Imagine having children already finished with college & on with their careers. Nature surely is the most wondrous place of unending tales.

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