Brush turkeys are spreading across Sydney but how the bird crossed the harbor is a mystery – Michmutters

Brush turkeys are spreading across Sydney but how the bird crossed the harbor is a mystery

After a decades-long absence, brush turkeys are reclaiming Sydney’s inner-city and southern suburbs, but not everyone has welcomed the distinctive birds back.

From the odd sighting south of the Sydney Harbor Bridge a few years ago, brush turkeys are now widespread.

Research ecologist Matthew Hall told ABC Radio Sydney it was only a matter of time before the native birds returned to the areas they once inhabited before hunting, land clearing and introduced species threatened their survival.

“They’ve been slowly coming back. But we’ve been taken by surprise just how fast they’re spreading into the city,” Mr Hall told Cassie McCullagh on Mornings.

A brush turkey walks across a fence in Summer Hill in Sydney's inner-west.
Brush turkeys are thriving thanks to their ability to adapt to the urban environment.(ABC Radio Sydney: Rosemary Bolger)

On the brink of extinction in the 1930s, some birds took refuge in national parks in the north and north-west.

Since hunting brush turkeys were outlawed, their numbers have increased steadily on the northern beaches and surrounds.

But many residents south of the Sydney Harbor Bridge are seeing the birds in their backyards and parks for the first time.

How did brush turkeys cross the harbour?

Researchers may have predicted the population would expand, but one question has them scratching their heads.

Given the harbor separates the city’s north and south, how did the brush turkey get to the other side?

“It truly is a mystery,” Dr John Martin, research scientist at Taronga Zoo, said.

“These birds do not fly very well, so flying hundreds of meters across the harbor or across the [Parramatta River] is just not something they are capable of.”

Brush turkeys cross the road in Gladesville in Sydney's Lower North Shore.
Brush turkeys cross the road in Gladesville on Sydney’s Lower North Shore.(Supplied: Paula Marchant)

One theory is that residents in the north wanting to rid their backyards of the pesky bird may have captured them, driven them across the bridge and released them into new territory.

They may have come down from existing populations in the Blue Mountains or up from Wollongong, which may explain sightings on the city’s southern fringes.


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