Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

“Talking Turkey-It’s Wild” at October MVFN lecture

Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

October 8, 2010

Wild turkeys ‘Talk’ at next MVFN lecture

Bring your appetite for wild turkeys to the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) October lecture “Talking Turkey—It’s Wild” to be presented by MVFN’s Program Chair and biologist Cathy Keddy. You don’t need to be an expert to enjoy MVFN’s monthly lecture series on natural history and biology held Thursday evenings in Almonte —just a curiosity or appreciation for wild nature.

Wild turkeys are native to North America and although they were not native locally, they are certainly here now and these large game birds are well known not only to hunters. Wild turkey ‘rafters’ often made up of numerous individual birds can be seen at almost any time of the year in fields from the roadsides of Lanark County, from our forest homes, and even in urban areas of Almonte. In fact due to reintroductions, alterations in habitat, and warmer climate, wild turkeys are thriving in Ontario in areas from which they had been extirpated and in areas such as Lanark County that are outside the historic range for these birds.

What is there to learn about the wild turkey’s status, distribution and abundance in our area and unique aspects of their habitat, sensitivity to harsh winter, and behaviour? Bring all your turkey questions to the lecture.

Wild turkeys unlike their domestic relatives, are strong agile fliers and are said to be ‘wild and wary to the point of genius.’  These cautious creatures have good eyesight and feed during the day, thus being quite visible to people and prone to receiving erroneous accusations relating to crop damage.

Wild turkeys communicate with one another with yelps, purrs, cackles and gobbles, but what does this cacophony sound like? Find out at Cathy Keddy’s presentation. Enjoy an evening among friends, find out more about these interesting birds and meet Cathy’s mystery guest, a former resident of the Clayton area. The presentation “Talking Turkey—It’s Wild” takes place Thursday, October 21 at 7:30 p.m., at the Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members). For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089.

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Wild turkeys observed in the Almonte area

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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.

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