Let's Talk Turkeys

Emily White

Let’s Talk Turkeys
The Wild Turkey is native to North America. It is actually the same species as the domesticated turkey. Wild turkeys are surprisingly agile fliers and cunning, unlike their domestic counterparts. Wild turkeys are very cautious birds and will fly or run at the first sign of danger. Their ideal habitat is open woodland near fields and edge habitat.
Wild turkeys are a true conservation success story. The Canadian population had nearly been wiped out, but their numbers have now rebounded due to strict hunting laws and by reintroducing wild turkeys to certain areas. In Ontario, the number has now grown to approximately 100,000 birds since the inception of a restoration program in 1984.

In the spring and summer, adult birds feed on leaves, grasses and seeds. From summer through fall and winter they will feed on insects, alfalfa and corn crops such as picked corn fields.
Turkeys typically will feed twice a day, in the early morning birds fly down from the roost trees to feed.

In most areas a turkey can get water from early morning dew or moisture in the plants they consume. Of course, creeks and ponds are also great sources of water.
After the morning feeding period, the flock will move to cover where the birds will dust and loaf around until afternoon. At which time they will feed again and return to the roost just before dark, and typically fly up early on stormy days. On cloudy, snowy mornings a turkey can remain in the roost for hours after first light.

When the food sources are abundant during the spring and summer, turkeys are on the move constantly. The flock may travel 2 mph as it moves along, feeding on whatever is available. During the fall turkeys are feeding on fallen acorns, other nuts and berries. Wild turkeys are heavy feeders in the fall and winter months.
To prove the wild turkeys’ toughness and their ability to survive the harsh conditions of winter, wild turkeys can survive heavy snow up to two weeks without food. The birds will conserve energy by staying on the roost and minimize their movement for days at a time. They may lose up to half of their body weight during this time.

Winters, especially heavy cold winter snows, can present a real risk to a turkey‘s survival. It‘s difficult for birds to move and scratch through crusted, deep snow to find food. In situations like this, turkey‘s often seek areas where other animals such as deer or cattle have pawed through the snow. More and more often, they are also appearing in backyards, even in the city. They are becoming a more common site in yards along ravines and wooded areas.
In severe winter conditions with deep snow cover, it may be beneficial to feed wild turkeys. Ground feeders are ideal. Fill with a good quality cut corn, whole corn or sunflower seeds. Featherfields’ sells only dry, steel-cut corn which is a great source of carbohydrate. Typical “cracked” corn, found in many seed blends on the market, has been crushed, often before it’s been fully dried, resulting in a powdery product with very little nutritional value.
Turkeys will also happily make use of an open water source. A large heated birdbath is a great addition to your yard and will attract many bird species in the cold weather. Just plug in to an outdoor extension cord and birds will be free to drink and bathe all winter.

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