Wild TurkeyBut do you know why? Well, it seems that in those days everywhere you looked there was a wild turkey strutting about. Not just that, but he admired the beautiful mating display when the male’s tail feathers were unfurled in all their glory.

Nowadays we are more familiar with the domesticated white turkey that we enjoy at Thanksgiving. Incidentally, why is the domestic turkey white? Several years ago our wild turkey was bred with the Mexican turkey resulting in the color change. There is still evidence of the wild turkey in the dark brown tail tips of this kind we eat now.

Should You Feed Wild Turkeys?

They scratch in the dirt and overturn branches and leaves. When you have a foot of snow covered by a layer of ice, it’s extremely difficult to do any scratching for food. That is why I am a strong advocate of collecting acorns in the fall so that I can leave them under my bird feeders for the turkeys when snow is deep. I also scatter sunflower seeds and cracked corn on top of the snow for the wild turkeys. I get a great satisfaction out of helping them to survive the worst winter conditions.

What Else Do Wild Turkeys Eat?

Turkeys are omnivorous. Besides acorns, they love all other kinds of nuts: hickory nuts, hazel nuts, butternuts, etc.. Fruit is another component of their diet, in addition to sunflower and other flower and weed seeds, insects and salamanders. We’ve got plenty of salamanders hiding under stones in our woods, and there’s no shortage of insects either.

I’ll never forget one morning when I started up into the woods for a walk. All of a sudden I discovered this wing beating and peeping and clucking sounds high in the trees over my head. I had disturbed a flock of wild turkeys that had been roosting in the tall white pines! At sunset turkeys fly up into the trees to roost for the night. They are far safer there than on the floor where foxes, wild dogs, coyotes, etc. find them easy nighttime prey.

How Quickly Can They Fly?

They are also able to run. Their top running speed is 20 mph! They maintain a great steady walking pace as well. Covering several miles per day is normal for them.

How Many Babies Do They Have?

A female turkey will pick a bush in the forests under which she will lay a clutch of tan and brown speckled eggs from 4 to 17 in number. Mama will indulge her girls by feeding them, but just for the first few days. She roosts on the floor with her babies, also called’poults’, during this time. After that they’re on their own and quickly learn to forage for themselves. But, her young will travel with her at a flock all year right through the winter.

We’ve All Seen Tom Turkeys, But What Do the Hens Look Like?

A Hen Turkey’s head has a blue/black color, while the Tom Turkey has a red head with a white spot on the top. Male turkeys are silent, secretive and elusive the majority of the time. However when they want to secure their harem of hens, they make clucking and peeping sounds, and sometimes a low drumming comes from deep in their throats.

The female is a drab brown/black color and very thin in the spring. But come fall all of the turkeys take on a much plumper shape. The other flap of skin that hangs over their beaks is known as a’snood’. Both can turn bright red when the turkey is agitated or excited.

How Heavy Do Wild Turkeys Become?

Having to make their way from the wild keeps turkeys slimmer than their national counterparts. They will weigh from 5 to 19 lbs. Their body measures a hefty 3- to almost 4 feet with a wingspan of 4 to nearly 5 feet!

The average life span of a turkey in the wild is only 3 or 4 decades. Considering all the predators out there and the survival challenges, you can see why that’s the case.

Also, their territories are shrinking rapidly. Their fondness for hardwood forests which are connected to grassy fields provides them with good food sources, roosting and hiding areas. Regrettably, hardwood forests are being cut down to provide materials for human habitation.

Despite their size, these wonderful birds can take into the air in an explosive burst of speed. They can turn their heads up to 270 degrees, and they have excellent hearing and vision. They can dazzle us with their courtship displays and dances.

I believe Old Ben was right. They would have made an excellent national symbol!

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