November 2021: Turkeys

Would you believe turkeys were missing from the Connecticut landscape by the early 1800s? Between forest clearing and hunting, human activity eliminated the wild turkey from the state. Reintroduction began in the 1950s, though it wasn’t successful until later, when 356 turkeys were relocated to 18 Connecticut sites from 1975 to 1992.

Turkeys are a common sight at Earthplace. In the springtime, we can often hear the male turkey’s gobbler call, and sometimes catch him showing off with his tail spread and his body puffed up. While walking the trails before dusk, you might catch them flying up into the trees (did you know they fly? Turkeys can fly at speeds of 55 mph in short bursts!). At night, turkeys roost high in the trees to avoid predators. While turkeys can see 3x better than humans can, they can’t see very well at night.

The fleshy bit over the male turkey’s beak is called a snood. The longer the snood, the more likely the female turkey will be interested. The colors of their heads can also change, from red to blue to white, depending on the mood of the turkey.

The best way to help support a turkey population? It’s not recommended to feed them outright—meaning, don’t leave food out for them. But you can plant things in the landscape that provide food for the turkey. Shrubs such as highbush blueberry, winterberry, and hazelnut will attract them to your yard, as well as trees such as oak, beech, juniper, and hickory. Poults (baby turkeys) feed voraciously on insects and other invertebrates, so avoid pesticide use. Adults eat a variety of seeds, nuts, fruits, and invertebrates. You can provide all of these things in a backyard of native plantings, and perhaps earn yourself the sight of a mother with adorable poults.