Posts Tagged ‘Wild Turkey’


Landscape with Wild Turkeys

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As I was returning home along a country road, I could see something across the road ahead. As I drew closer, I realized the obstruction was a sting of Wild Turkeys. I stopped the car and took a photograph of the flock.


They seemed to be waiting for the mailman. I think they must have been expecting a cheque today.


They were reluctant to leave, but as I crept closer, they took off in a flurry of wings.

Closer to home, I spotted this handsome red fox. Seems like everyone was out enjoying the beautiful day.


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Garden Stroller


When I glanced out the window yesterday evening, I was surprised to see someone strolling in the garden…a turkey! The big bird seemed to be on its own, and appeared to be enjoying the floral display. It casually paced up and down the yard before disappearing into undergrowth at the side of the lawn. Although we do occasionally have a small flock of turkeys drop by to check out the bird feeder, I don’t put out seed in the summer, and haven’t had any turkey visitors in quite a while.

Today it was hot, hot, hot. Like much of the continent, we have been caught up in a major heat wave. Over a dozen daytime heat records were broken across southern Ontario and southern Quebec, and in Ottawa, the temperature climbed to 36, with the accompanying high humidity resulting in a Humidex reading of 45 degrees C (113 F). No gardening today!


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The Kids Are Alright


It was just over a week ago that I was worrying about turkeys coping with the snow. I needn’t have been concerned. Last Friday, we had an unseasonably warm day. The temperature soared to 10°C. I spent much of that day on the road, and was in the Toronto area for the weekend. When I returned, I was amazed at how much the snow melted during that brief warm spell. Even thought the temperature quickly plummeted back to the -10°C range, the blanket of white has been rolled back.

When I was out on the road yesterday, I saw this small flock of turkeys, but what a difference! Now the field where they were foraging was nearly bare. Flurries are predicted for this afternoon and the weekend, but no major accumulation is expected. With the end of February in sight, it looks like these kids will be alright.


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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.


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.


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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Turkey Visitors

For the last week or so, a little flock of turkeys has been dropping by in the afternoon to snack at the bird feeder. There are usually four adult birds and 5 youngsters.

The adults are more forthright and gather under the feeder.

The little turkeys hang back and hide behind bushes at the garden edge. Do the adults give them some signal? Okay, you can come out now! The coast is clear!

Cautiously, they enter the yard.

They hesitate. I’m sure they spot me at the window, even though I am standing back from the opening. Sharp eyes!

They decide I am not a threat and meander over to join the adults under the feeder.

They are so amazingly big, it seems funny, surprising, to see them grazing in the yard. I could watch them for a long time, but I have other things waiting for me to attend to. When I leave the window, they are still quietly foraging.

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It’s not too unusual to see a flock of wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) when you’re travelling local rural roads. This is especially so in winter, when the large birds show up starkly against snowy fields as they forage. It hasn’t always been that way though. I certainly never saw turkeys when I was growing up. Although wild turkeys are native to southern Ontario, its only Canadian locality, habitat loss and over-hunting decimated the turkey population during the 1800s. The species was extirpated from Ontario by 1909. The last confirmed sighting was in Aurora, north of Toronto.

A program to restore wild turkeys to Ontario was undertaken by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) and the first 74 wild turkeys, imported from Michigan and Missouri, were released in 1984. Since then, additional birds have been imported and released with considerable success, with large population increases over the last two decades. The OMNR ended its release program at the beginning of 2005. It still seems something of a novelty to see flocks strutting and gleaning seeds in fields.

Turkeys do well where there is adequate forest cover, a water source, and open fields, such as corn and soybean fields, for foraging. When spring days begin to warm up, the winter flocks break into smaller breeding groups, with dominant males preventing subordinate males from accessing females. The females construct nests by scratching a depression in the ground in an area where it will be well concealed by grass and vegetation.

When snow is very deep, it limits the availability of food, as the turkeys are unable to forage on the ground. If snow depth exceeds 25 centimetres for more than seven weeks, turkeys may begin to starve to death. Good luck, turkeys. Hope to see you in the spring!

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Turkey Time


It’s not uncommon to see Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) around the area. Over the winter and spring, I occasionally saw a small flock of turkeys well down our field, near the forest. If I went outside and approached them, they beat a hasty retreat into the woods. It’s incredible how totally these large birds can disappear in the forest. By the time I reached the trees, there would be not the slightest sign of turkeys.


Therefore, I was very surprised when I glanced out the living room window on Tuesday morning and saw a turkey in the yard! On closer inspection, I found that he was not alone. The rest of the flock was casually strolling about too.

turkey pair

The spot where the turkey was standing is where I usually throw out a bit of seed for the birds every day. I don’t know how the turkeys discovered it, but that turkey sure looked expectant! Unfortunately, I hadn’t gotten around to my morning seed run yet. After gazing reproachfully at the house for a few minutes, the turkey and his flock-mates made a gracious exit and returned down the field to the forest.


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A news report in November 2008, told of a farm in Colorado that, once they were finished with the harvest, opened their fields to anyone who wanted to pick up the leftover vegetables. Forty thousand people showed up! These modern gleaners, arriving by car, were a far cry from Jean Francois Millet’s famous gleaners, portrayed in 1857.

The Gleaners  Jean Francois Milet  1857

The Gleaners, by Jean Francois Milet, 1857

Here are some local gleaners, photographed in fields in the surrounding countryside:

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis)

The Gleaners: Canada Geese (Branta canadensis)

American Crows (Corvus brachyrhychos)

The Gleaners: American Crows (Corvus brachyrhychos)

Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo)

The Gleaners: Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo)

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