Scrubfowl, or bush turkeys, are one of three mound building birds in Australia. 

They are common in Darwin and some Top End islands. 

Scrubfowl are found in pairs and are very territorial. 

They spend the day foraging on the forest floor and only fly if disturbed or to roost in trees. 

They breed in September and October. Chicks emerge from mounds around November. 

Scrubfowl are a protected species in the Northern Territory (NT). You should not interfere with scrubfowl unless you have a permit. Read more about wildlife permits.


Scrubfowl eat a range of food while they scratch and forage, including insects, fruits and seeds. 

They are mostly herbivorous but will eat many seasonally available food items. 

In urban environments scrubfowl eat garden insects and plants and sometimes eat pet food in backyards.


Scrubfowl are common in rural and urban areas around Darwin. 

In these areas they are often victims of cat and dog attacks or car accidents.

Interaction with people

Scrubfowl take advantage of reliable food supplies, nest sites and irrigated gardens in urban environments. 

Their digging and foraging can damage the garden, and they can also cause damage to areas where nesting mounds are built. 

In breeding season scrubfowl may cause noise disturbances at night.

Scrubfowl problems in your area

There are a number of things you can do to reduce scrubfowl problems in your area, including any of the following:

  • when you plan your garden develop it in stages and protect plants in the early stages to stop scrubfowl damage
  • mulch around plants with pebbles, rocks or heavy coarse mulch
  • place tree guards or wire around newly planted trees or shrubs 
  • build compost heaps to attract scrubfowl away from the garden
  • avoid feeding wild birds and keep pet food in a place out of scrubfowl reach
  • consider putting aside a small area with 80% to 90% shade in your garden for scrubfowl to use – this area could also be used as a compost area
  • make sure irrigation systems are buried and secure
  • keep pets away from scrubfowl.

Never destroy a mound or chase a scrubfowl.

It is difficult to stop birds building a mound, but sometimes placing a tarpaulin over the mound can be effective.

Last updated: 01 September 2015

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