Wild Turkeys in the Mohawk Valley

The return of the wild turkey to New York State and the Mohawk Valley is truly a success story. We live on two acres of land bordering a stream and a expansive area of woods and corn fields. This is an ideal turkey habitat. We really didn't see any wild turkeys when we moved here 20 years ago. I don't remember the exact year, but we first started occasionally seeing maybe one or two outback. At the time we thought it was a pretty big deal. Each year we would see a few more. Now, we see several groups of 50 or more turkeys a time in the yard or in cut corn fields. This is the first year they have been constant visitors to our bird feeder.


The first snows of the season have brought the wild turkeys back again.
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We observe more than a 2 dozen turkeys at the feeder every day now. The male turkeys or toms, have several features that distinguish them from female, or hen, turkeys. They are much larger and appear to stand 3-4 feet high when they stretch there neck. The male turkeys have large spurs. The female turkey's spurs are much smaller. The toms have noticeable beards that extend down from the center of the breast. The plumage of males appears to change from rust to green to copper to bronze to gold depending on the brightness and angle of the sun. The plumage of females appears dull and generally brown in color, and the breast feathers are tipped with light tan. It's enjoyable watching the toms go after each other around the feeder with visual displays with their plumage and strutting. I guess they're trying to show who's the boss.

In the spring we observed males courting several females. I managed to catch such a display on video tape. Hens are attracted to the gobbling and visual displays, or strutting, of the toms. During late spring and summer we watch the hens parading through the yard with their poults. The poults are learning to catch the insects that provide the protein required for rapid growth and development. Later the poults begin to include some plant material in their diet. We don't see the toms with them, because they do not participate in any aspect of nesting or raising of young.

In the wild the adult turkeys eat wild grapes and blackberries, beechnuts, acorns, corn , grasses, ferns, and insects. They probably consume over 600 different species of plant and insects.

At the feeder we use only black oil sunflower seeds. The turkeys don't actually go in the feeder it's to small and stands about 6' off the ground. They are getting the spill from other birds who frequent the feeder. There are a couple of drawbacks to having the turkeys at the feeder. They are constantly pecking and clawing at the ground. Therefore, I advise putting the feeder in a place where you won't mind them digging. Also, there is an abundance of turkey dung around the feeder and yard.

The male turkeys, let's say about a half dozen, travel as one group. While the females and young turkeys come as another. These groups don't mingle at the feeder.

The deep snow we have had seems to limit the mobility of wild turkeys. However, the wild turkeys roost near in the trees and fly to the bird feed. It is comical to watch one or two of the turkeys try to slowly plow their way through the deep snow.

We can hear the familiar gobble of the wild turkey, which can be heard from as far as a mile by human ears. The gobble is only one of the 28 different calls of the wild turkey. We also hear some of the less familiar calls, including the lost call, kee-kee, purr, yelp, whine, putt, puff, and cluck. They appear to be calling complex messages to each other.

Interesting Wild Turkey Facts

Turkeys were abundant in Mohawk Valley during the 1600's. However, uncontrolled hunting and the intensive clearing of forests resulted in the demise of native wild turkey populations. By 1844 the turkeys were gone from the Mohawk Valley, there were a few left in southwestern New York State.

For over a century, the wild turkey continued to be absent from the New York landscape. However, in the late 1940's, wild turkeys had moved northward from Pennsylvania and were reported again in southwestern New York. Wild turkeys were reestablished in New York by 1957, but occupied only the extreme southwest portion of the state. During the same year, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation began relocating birds to areas of the state that were capable of sustaining wild turkey populations.

  • The wild turkey is found in all of the lower 48 states and Hawaii.
  • In spite of their size, wild turkeys can fly at speeds up to 55 miles per hour.
  • Wild turkeys can run at speeds of at least 12 miles per hour.

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