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July 2020 - Wild Turkey

 Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

 Turkey close up    Turkey plumage

If you’ve visited Westminster Ponds Centre recently, you might have noticed one of our permanent residents, the wild turkey.

The wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is native to North America and is quite common in Southern Ontario. Despite their, now, thriving population, wild turkeys were extirpated (locally extinct) in Ontario in the early 20th century, due to habitat loss and over-hunting. In the 1940s, reintroduction programs were started in many areas in North America, however, efforts didn’t begin in Ontario until 1984. These efforts were successful and wild turkeys are expanding their range and increasing in population!

You will generally find wild turkeys in woodlands, however, they also frequent open woods, fields, and pastures (especially during mating season). If you’ve seen the turkeys at Westminster Ponds Centre, you may have noticed that if they get spooked they are quite speedy. Well, wild turkeys can actually run up to 19 km/hour in short bursts! As well, turkeys can actually fly and roost in trees overnight.

Turkeys are omnivores and will forage on forest floors to find food. They eat acorns, nuts, berries, seeds, but have also been known to eat some insects and small amphibians (although grass is considered to be the majority of their diet).

Male turkeys are considerably larger than the females, and their feathers often show iridescent shades of purple, copper, green, and gold. On average, male turkeys weigh around 18 lbs, while females weigh only 8 lbs. As well, only male turkeys display their ruffled features and fanlike tail. Turkeys tend to live 3-4 years in the wild.

The next time you’re at Westminster Ponds Centre, see if you can see (or hear) our resident turkeys, take a picture, and send it to us!


 Photo Credit

Both photos: