Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley
Mississippi River at Pakenham

Nature Notebook

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Photograph by:  Tine Kuiper
Taken:  Saturday March 29, 2003

Last weekend, Tine Kuiper was fortunate to notice a flock of about 10 wild turkeys that had come to her bird feeder to clean up a few scraps of seeds that had fallen to the ground. One Tom was in full display, strutting with tail fanned to attract and hold his harem; he did not have much time for feeding, but nudged the others on. After becoming concerned about some geese overhead, the birds marched single file back into the woods.

The National Audubon Society writes ” Although the Wild Turkey was well known to American Indians and widely used by them as food, certain tribes considered them stupid, and did not eat them for fear of acquiring these characteristics.” By the end of the 19th century, the wild turkey had largely disappeared from Ontario, generally attributed to the destruction of their natural hardwood breeding grounds and to over-hunting. From 1984 to 1986, 253 wild-caught turkeys from the US were introduced into the local areas and seem to be expanding slowly.

Their preferred habitat is a pine-oak forest near water. They forage on seeds, nuts, acorns, but in the Summer also enjoy grass hoppers and other insects, frogs, toads,salamanders, lizards and snakes. The gobbling sound of the male turkey is similar to that of the domestic turkey.

The toms have a one inch-wide “beard” that increases in length with age; the beard visible in the photograph indicates that this tom is fairly young.

Wild turkeys nest on the ground, near the edge of wooded areas. The nest is shallow, sparsely lined with dead vegetation or leaves. The males are polygamous and take no part in nesting activities.

Single brooded, the hen lays from eight to twenty eggs. Incubation takes twenty-eight days and after the chicks hatch, they can fly into trees within two weeks. Broods stay together until wintertime, at which time they are fully grown and move off singly to mate in the Spring.

The Messenger

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FULL-SIZED  CALENDAR WITH DETAILS

Our natural history talks are at 7:30 pm on the third Thursday in January, February, March, April,  September, October and November at Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St. in Almonte, Ontario. All are welcome to attend! Non-members $5. 

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