Brushturkeys: They Grow Up So Fast!0
Imagine life without a childhood. Imagine entering the world as a near-adult, a 15-year-old who can make breakfast, start a job, and navigate the trials and tribulations of everyday life – all without having to hold a parent’s hand.
This is the youth of the Australian brushturkey (Alectura lathami).
Brushturkeys are superprecocial birds; when they hatch and dig out of the mound, without any parental supervision, they are fully feathered and immediately fend for themselves. They can even fly (as well as a brushturkey can fly, anyway) within hours! Brushturkeys and their closest relatives are remarkable; no other chicks are so developed when they leave the egg.
Although it seems like they’d be adept at escaping predators, brushturkey chick mortality is very high. Therefore, the advantage to being precocial must lie elsewhere. Perhaps helpless altricial chicks would always be eaten all the time – some survivors is better than none – or perhaps adults can breed more often because they don’t need to invest weeks of care into each brood.
While they’re busy doing a little more growing and getting their adult plumage, brushturkey chicks are just as capable as their parents. This notable reproductive strategy has allowed them to thrive for millennia.
Written by Charlotte Liehr