Wild Turkey

So I’ve managed to spot either a solo turkey or a group of turkeys several times over the past decade or so. While it has been a couple of years since they’ve strutted through the neighborhood, we did have one that liked to hang around. It would even ‘escort’ your car up the street or to your driveway.

A turkey trying to convince a parked truck to move.

They were also ‘easy’ to spot in the greater Boston area. When I was working at Brandeis University, I would spot the turkeys strutting through campus or up the street. There were also several mornings, when they would be grazing in front of the building where I worked.

Turkeys grazing at Brandeis University

I also saw one on Spectacle Island (which is one of the islands within the Boston Harbor).

Wild turkeys are one of the larger ground-dwelling birds, where their weight can vary (depending on sex and the food supply for the year) from 5.5 pounds up to almost 24 pounds.

They have a dark overall plumage, with a bronze-green iridescence to the plumage (depends on lighting to be able to see that). Their wings have a white/brown bar pattern to them, while their tail feather can have a strip of white, rusty-red, or cinnamon coloring to them. The difference in the tail feathers, is one way of distinguishing between ‘regional’ species of wild turkey.

In terms of geographical location–they’re present in the lower forty-eight states, though more widespread in some states compared to others. They’re also found in the southern parts of a few Canadian providences, and also down into Mexico.

Range map of the wild turkey. Map (c) birds of the world

Since the wild turkey doesn’t migrate, they live within mature forests that are also adjacent to open areas such as fields, parks and so forth.

Usually they can be spotted as a group (or duo) foraging for food–and the groups would either be all male (as males don’t help in the rearing of the young), or the female with offspring. Though occasionally you can spot one on their own.

Usually early morning/late afternoon is the best to spot them as they graze for food. Though depending on location–sometimes you can spot them throughout the day as well.

Turkey spotted on Spectacle Island, Boston Harbor Islands

Turkeys fed mainly on plant matter and usually within a few feet of the ground. While they prefer to stay on the ground, they will climb into shrubs and short trees for fruits. Their diet includes acorns, beech nuts, pecans, hickory nuts, and wild berries (though the nut source can vary depending on which state they’re in).

During the winter (especially in the north where it snows), they will also feed on moss, ferns, and burdock.

They will supplement their diet with salamanders, snails, and insects.

Here are some other odd facts about the turkey:

They will roost in trees at night–flying and landing on lower branches and then moving upwards into the higher branches.

While humans hunt them during turkey season, they do have numerous other predators including: coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, mountain lions, golden eagles, and great horned owls. The young (and eggs) are preyed upon by raccoons, opossums, skunks (mainly the striped), gray foxes, woodchucks, snakes, other birds and rodents.

The wild turkey is one of two domesticated birds that are native to the New World (the other is the Muscovy duck).

The turkey was introduced to Europe in the early 1500s when European explorers brought them back from Mexico. They were ‘reintroduced’ when the English settled along the Atlantic coast.

Turkey strutting through the neighbor’s front yard

Reference: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/wild_turkey