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Posts Tagged ‘tree roost’

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I haven’t seen many flocks of Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) this winter, but at the end of last week, I noticed a large flock in a field when I was out driving. There were quite a number of birds, perhaps a hundred or so, spread out in groups across the far side of the field. I stopped and took a couple of photographs.

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The turkeys were far enough away that they didn’t pay too much attention to me. Turkeys are cautious birds, and don’t generally allow curious spectators to approach them. They have good cause to be nervous. Prior to European settlement, turkeys were common in the mixed and temperate forests of southern Ontario. Habitat loss and hunting resulted in such population declines that the species was extirpated from Ontario by 1909. A reintroduction program, begun in 1984 has been amazingly successful, and there is now a spring and fall hunting season for turkeys here. Having grown up in a turkeyless Ontario, it still surprises me to see the big birds. It surprises me and gives me a moment of pleasure to spot them.

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It’s been a difficult winter for turkeys. Deep snow interferes with the ability of turkeys to forage on the ground. The snow in my yard is over a foot deep. According to information in the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario 2000-2005, localized starvation may occur when snow depth exceeds 25 cm for more than seven consecutive weeks. However, we had milder temperatures on the weekend, and on Monday, it was above freezing, so the snow is melting back a bit.

It seems odd, somehow, to think of these large, strutting birds sitting in trees, but that’s how they spend their nights. Recently, my friend Tony noticed a flock of roosting turkeys and took the photograph below, which he kindly shared with me. We’re halfway through February, so hopefully the snow will be disappearing before too long. Good luck, you turkeys!

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