WILD TURKEY

WILD TURKEY(Meleagris gallopavo)

The Wild turkey is part of the same family as the partridge, the chicken and the pheasant. It is a large game bird at around 1.1 meter (43 in.) long and can weigh up to 10 kg (22 lb) in males, which are larger – and more colorful – than females.

Wild turkeys do not migrate. They are now established in all lower USA states. Their habitat is the forest, where most of their diet is from vegetation – seeds, acorns, etc. Their numbers started declining at some point due to hunting pressure, so wild turkeys were introduced to more states – including Hawaii – and southern Canada. It is widely known across North America due to its association with Thanksgiving.

The wild turkey was hinted at by Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, to be the emblem bird of that country, but only in private correspondence with his daughter.

The name ‘turkey’ seems to refer to an identification error a few centuries ago when some wild turkeys were sent to Britain via Turkey.

The wild turkey does not appear on the Field Checklist of Birds (8th Edition) 2014 for Prince Edward Island. (The checklist was published by the Prince Edward Island Department of Agriculture and Forestry. Please click on Field Checklist of Birds – 8th Edition – 2014 for a copy of the checklist in .pdf format.) However there have been occurrences of these birds seen in the wild over the years.

The PEI government does not allow its release in the wild due to concerns from blueberry & grain farmers. There have also been ‘false rumors’ of wild turkey sightings on the island, for example in the Brookvale area in 2016. Any sighting in the wild should be reported  to the Provincial Fish & Wildlife Division by calling 902-368-4700.

Here are some interesting news and facts on the wild turkey in other provinces and states:

New Brunswick – the provincial government there does not want (yet) the species reintroduced into the province due to concerns from farmers, but some individuals apparently have made their way up north from Maine, and hunters are lobbying for its introduction.
Newfoundland – dozens of those birds were seen in Codroy Valley foraging on corn in farm fields.
Nova Scotia – The province has decided NOT to introduce the wild turkey. Hunters have to travel to New England to hunt the species, but some are working to be able to raise them on reserves for hunting purposes.
Quebec – The provincial government there reintroduced that native species into the Eastern Townships in the 1980s, and since then the population has exploded in spite of hunting, raising concerns from local farmers. A wild turkey has also smashed into a living room window, causing extensive property damage. And a wild turkey tom charged at a player on a golf course on Île Bizard.
Ontario – there are concerns there that reintroduced wild turkey populations are taking their toll on the forest floor by scraping away at the leaf litter and leaving the ground bare on large surfaces, and eating seeds that would be needed to regenerate the forest. Their damage is compared to that of deer on the under story.
A man was followed by a very persistent wild turkey in a Brampton area in March 2018. Ontario would now have a wild turkey population at around 70,000 birds.
Oregon – wild turkeys can also damage gardens with their scratching and digging for seeds and insects, leaving droppings ‘everywhere’.
British Columbia – same problem in this town (Edgewater), where dozens of wild turkeys snap branches when roosting in large groups in trees.

Wild turkey breeding male - photo by Riki7
Wild turkey breeding male – photo by Riki7
Wild Turkey hens - Mass., USA - © Roberta Palmer
Wild Turkey hens – Mass., USA – Roberta Palmer
Wild turkey hen with her chicks - photo by Kevin Cole
Wild turkey hen with her chicks – photo by Kevin Cole

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