The wild turkey is one of the most recognizable birds in all of North America and a symbol of the holiday season. As these fascinating and adaptable birds are becoming increasingly common backyard visitorsand popular birdwatching subjects, you can turn your own yard or garden into a natural buffet to support them.
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Instead of focusing on the turkey on your dinner plate,consider what food sources you can offer wild turkeys and increase your chances of seeing and enjoying them right outside your window. Here’s how to fill the wild turkey’s proverbial “plate” with food year-round.
Feeding Wild Turkeys the Natural Way
Wild Turkey’s Range provided by Nature Serve
Offer Seeds and Browse:Turkeys browse on plant buds and shoots in the early spring and feed off fern fronds, club mosses, and weeds such as burdock, especially when there is a lot of snow cover and other foods are hard to find. Grasses, sedges and many wildflowers provide wild turkeys with seeds to eat. We don’t encourage attracting turkeys with birdseed from feeders, mostly because artificially feeding turkeys causes them to lose their natural fear of people*.
Bonus Tip: Provide a water sourcein addition to providing natural food sources. By providing a backyard pond or even a birdbath placed directly on the ground you’ll supply clean drinking water for the turkeys.
This year,learn more about turkeys than just the best recipes cook them. Discover the intriguing naturalhistoryof the wild turkey, maketurkey-inspired craftsand laugh at amusing turkeytrivia.
Wild Turkey Chick. Credit: Nick Kerosky.
*Male wild turkeys are territorial and canoccasionally become aggressive, especially during the spring breeding season. This often happens when wild turkeys are being artificially fed with feeders and have lost their natural fear of people, so avoid doing that. If turkeys are cleaning up spilled seed from songbird feeders, take those feeders down. If you have plenty of native plants in your yard, all the birds will have plenty of natural foods to eat.
If you encounter a turkey that’s got something to prove, assert your dominance by standing your ground and chasing it away by walking towards it with a broom or rake or spraying it with a garden hose, to remind it where it fits in the pecking order. Male turkeys are large and intimidating and do have sharp spurs on their legs, but generallypose little actual threat of harm to humans. If you find that the wild turkeys in your yard are too much trouble, we recommend putting automatic sprinklers in your yard to scare them off whenever theyshow up. They also don’t like larger dogs and avoid yards where they are present.
A wild turkey in a field of buttercups. Photo by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Monte Loomis.
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