Wild Turkey

Meleagris gallopavo

Wild Turkeys are resident breeding birds at Chert Hollow Farm. Observations are somewhat erratic. Sightings are most routine in March, April, and November. Summer months are hit or miss, and deep winter months include the fewest sightings. The regularity of summer sightings in a given year seems to relate to breeding success and foraging opportunities, as well as some degree of observational luck.

Trail cameras are good at documenting turkeys and reduce the observational luck (though we don’t always have trail cameras running year round). This is a trail camera photo from the drought of 2012 (in August, at the pond edge):

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We’ve found two nests, in different years and at different locations, but both in the woods not far from our main field. Here’s a photo of one nest:bio_wild_turkey_nest

Eric took this photo of a mother hen who was circling an area near the house, distressed because one of her poults had gotten trapped in an open crate.

bio_wild_turkey_henDuring fall months, we generally see sign of Wild Turkeys more often than we see the birds themselves. A collection of bare-ground patches, roughly the size of dinner plates, is a good indicator that a flock of turkeys has been foraging.

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We generally enjoy having turkeys around, but they can at times be responsible for crop damage, usually minor in our experience. We’ve documented minor sweet corn damage from Wild Turkeys, and we’ve also seen them eating freshly planted cover crop seed (rye/vetch) in the fall. One year, we planted some wheat that we intended to feed to the chickens; we didn’t get to the work of harvesting it in a timely fashion. In the end, we left it as a food plot for a family of Wild Turkeys that we were able to observe routinely that year.