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Noosa mourns traffic-stopping, much-loved leucistic white brush turkey

Noosa's much-loved white brush turkey

A much-loved white brush turkey that "set up camp in prime position" on Noosa's Hastings Street is being remembered as a character and little legend.

The popular male turkey was struck and killed by a car late last week near Hastings Street.

"We're all devastated because it's a shock that that's happened," Noosa resident Corinne Martell said.

"The fact that he set up camp in the busiest section of the entire Noosa Main Beach on Hastings Street, he had prime position ... he's a little legend."

Ms Martell first spotted him as a chick, less than six inches tall, in 2019 during her swims at Main Beach.

The three-year-old bird developed a reputation for strutting along the popular tourist strip, in and out of cafes and restaurants and posing for photos.

With a mound boldly planted at the entrance to Hastings Street, Ms Martell says "he was the local tourist attraction."

The brush turkey was often spotted building a nest outside the Noosa Surf Club. (Supplied: Lynne Galbraith)

Noosa mum Tanya Mancini says brush turkeys are common around the town, but this one was "a real special one".

"He was our little celebrity in Noosa. It's really sad," she said.

"He used to always come up to us. He was very, very friendly.

Ms Martell says the wild bird was comfortable around people. (Supplied: Corinne Martell)

Genetic trait in Noosa's turkeys

Wildlife Noosa founder William Watson retrieved the deceased bird near the bus station about 50 metres from Hastings Street.

"He was a bit of a character," Mr Watson said.

Noosa locals say the bird was not deterred by the number of cars or people. (Source: Mike Drinkwater)

"We've had a few [white brush turkeys], and they've all had that dominant character."

White brush turkeys have been around Noosa's main street for decades.

They have often been called "Albi" or "Albie" in reference to their albino-like appearance.

However, University of the Sunshine Coast animal ecologist Dominique Potvin said they were not albino.

Dr Potvin says the birds are classified as leucistic because "the eyes have pigment". 

Mr Watson said leucism was a rare and random genetic trait among the brush turkeys in the area.

"[The] recent Albie may have only produced all-black turkey chicks, and yet two black turkeys from the far end of the spit may produce a leucistic," he said.

While the brush turkey was most well known for his prominent Hastings Street nest, Mr Watson said he also had one at the nearby Peppers Noosa Resort.

The debris the bird scattered across the resort's road while making the mound was so extensive that Mr Watson had to build a fence to contain it.

Mr Watson erected a screen at the resort to contain debris from the nest. (Source: Wildlife Noosa)

"He would walk from Peppers down that hill and then onto Hastings Street and then spend the day strutting his stuff on Hastings Street looking for food and then come back up in the afternoon and tidy up his nest getting it all ready," Mr Watson said.

At that site, he fended off foxes and goannas until one day, he was booted out.

Wildlife Noosa's cameras captured some of the predators the brush turkey had to contend with. (Source: Wildlife Noosa)

Mr Watson believes the turkey then started work on another mound at the garden in front of the Surf Club to be ready for incubating eggs by September.

At this time of year, he said it was unlikely that there would be any fertile eggs in that mound.

Push for memorial

Mr Watson and Mike Drinkwater — a photographer, wildlife "fanatic", and Noosa's unofficial "turkey guy" — are in discussions with the Noosa Shire Council for a plaque and burial site for the much-loved bird.

"The plaque or memorial of some sort would have to be in that same spot where most people knew where his nest is outside the Surf Club," Mr Drinkwater said.

"We've got to bury him too, and we're trying to find out where to do that and get permission to do that as well."

Mr Drinkwater said it would raise awareness about the presence of turkeys, a protected species, in the area.

Apart from the information on the nests, residents want signs to alert motorists to the brush turkeys. (Source: Wildlife Noosa)

A Noosa council spokesman said applications for a plaque would be considered under the relevant council policy.

He said signage was not necessarily the answer to keeping wildlife safe.

"Putting a plethora of signage around doesn't necessarily equate to people adhering to them," the spokesman said.

"We always promote, as does Tourism Noosa and wildlife groups [for] people to be aware of wildlife and to drive accordingly."

The white brush turkeys are a popular attraction for tourists at Noosa. (Supplied: Jodi Ditterich)

On social media, Tewantin local Bernard Jean called for a reduced speed limit along Hastings Street.

"We have admired generations of these beautiful creatures, being killed, one by one by motorists on Hastings Street," he said.

"There should be a compulsory very low speed limit on this street where people, children and wildlife can cross safely at any time."

Mr Drinkwater is now pressing ahead with ideas for signage that he said would help locals and tourists while reducing wildlife fatalities and injuries.

The brush turkeys are known to walk across the road regardless of vehicle traffic. (Supplied: Bernard Jean)

"Some people just drive into Noosa not knowing and especially in the early morning when they're more active."

Resident Tanya Mancini welcomed more signage.

"That would be fantastic because the brush turkeys come out all the time and it's getting busier too," she said.

"I think it'd be great to have a bit more signage like a big sign saying, 'Slow down.'"

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