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Australian Brush-turkey (Alectura lathami) Fact Sheet: Managed Care

History of Managed Care

Private parks

  • 1870s: bred in Touraine and modern day Paris, France (Marchant and Higgins 1993)
  • Beginning in 1897, the Melbourne Zoo sent more than 20 Australian Brush-turkeys to the Duchess of Bedford (Brush-turkeys in England 1913)
    • Turkeys released into a nearby park where they bred successfully
  • Early 1900s: Brush-turkeys held in a 300-acre forest park of private estate in Sussex, England (Hubbard 1908)
    • Several chicks were collected and raised to adult age

Zoos, general

  • 1933: Nesting behavior observed in the gardens of the Zoological Society of London (Nest-building... 1933)
  • 1969: Chick hatched at the St. Louis Zoo (Flieg 1970)
    • First chick successfully raised in the western hemisphere
  • Historical photograph (1911); location unknown

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park

  • 1937: First two Brush-turkeys arrive at the San Diego Zoo (ZIMS 2017)
    • One male, one female
  • 1949: Early record of an Australian Brush-turkey at the San Diego Zoo (Inventories, Zoological Society of San Diego Archives)
  • 1969: Yellow-pouched Brush Turkey hatched at the San Diego Zoo (Flieg 1970; Hill 1972)
    • Only the second to be successfully hatched in North America
  • 1972: New Cramer Exhibit opens at the San Diego Zoo (Hill 1972)
    • Aviary named for San Diego civic and business leader, Henry B. Cramer
    • Housed four Yellow-pouched Brush-turkeys when it opened
  • 1976: A Yellow-pouched Brush-turkey chick goes on exhibit in the Cramer Exhibit (Heublein 1976)
  • San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Walkabout Australia exhibit



(Chad Staples, personal communication, 2018)

  • Low maintenance, when sufficient space provided
  • Mound-tending behavior fascinating for zoo visitors


(Chad Staples, personal communication, 2018)

  • Easily free ranged
    • Require sufficient space
    • Can be housed in large, sturdy enclosures/aviaries
    • Difficult to maintain in small areas or fenced areas
  • Quality shelters provide:
    • Sufficient cover
    • Substrate made of mulch and thick leaf litter
      • Required for foraging and mound building
    • Perches for roosting

Social interactions

  • Usually solitary throughout the year (Chad Staples, personal communication, 2018)
    • Young birds (30 days or younger) almost always solitary
    • Sub adults may roost communally
    • Adults more likely to roost or forage communally outside of the breeding season
  • Males fight over nest sites (Chad Staples, personal communication, 2018)
  • Dominance between the sexes
    • While studying birds in aviaries, Göth and Astheimer (2006) found that:
      • Before four months of age, females are dominant to males
      • After about four months of age, males become dominant to females
        • Show relatively more agonistic behavior
    • Males and females can be housed separately; interact during breeding (Chad Staples, personal communication, 2018)

Diet in managed care settings

(Chad Staples, personal communication, 2018)

  • Brush-turkeys in aviaries
    • Commercial seed, grain mixes, poultry pellets
    • Leafy greens (e.g., spinach, endive, bok choy)
    • Diced fruit (apple, pear, melons, papaya, etc.)
    • Mealworms, insects (e.g., roaches, crickets)
    • Protein supplement
  • Free range birds feed on poultry scratch mixes, or pigeon or finch seed mixes
  • Chicks
    • Diet similar to adults
    • Require more protein

Breeding in managed care

  • Breed successfully in zoos (Elliott and Kirwan 2017)
    • Males build mound, as in the wild (Flieg 1970; Chad Staples, personal communication, 2018)
      • Spend most of the day tending and defending the mound
      • Adult females visit mound over a couple of days
  • Eggs difficult to age (Wong 1998)
    • Challenges
      • Eggs laid at irregular intervals
      • Not laid in a clutch
      • No air cell present to assist with aging
    • Embryo age and health can be evaluated using candling techniques
  • Chicks hatch at irregular intervals, at least four days apart (Chad Staples, personal communication, 2018)


  • Provisioning of mulch, substrate piles, grass clippings, etc. for mound building (Chad Staples, personal communication, 2018)

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