Turkey Dinner

Turkey dinner

Turkeys eat pretty much anything. In the wild, they prefer acorns, seeds, nuts, small insects and wild berries. But given the opportunity, they will also dine on grasses, beans and other plants, leftover grains, and even snakes, salamanders and frogs. In the winter they will also nip buds off of bushes and trees. In the spring, hens need calcium for their eggs and will start eating snails.

This wide-ranging diet is the secret of the turkey’s success. They can find food in many different habitats. And their populations can grow quite large without eating themselves out of house and home.

Running Turkey

Single turkeys strut their stuff

In spring, male wild turkeys establish mating territories. They attract females by puffing out their feathers, spreading their tails and dragging their wings—a display called strutting. Turkeys will return to the same strutting grounds year after year.

After mating, hens dig shallow nests lined with leaves on the ground at the bottom of a tree, under a shrub or in tall grass. After the eggs hatch, the chicks are up and walking within 24 hours. They follow their mother for a few weeks. The male provides no care for the brood. Several hens and their broods may join up into bands of more than 30 birds.

A gobble-gobble here and a gobble-gobble there

Wild turkeys make a wide variety of sounds, including gobbles, clucks, purrs, yelps and cackles. A strong gobble can be heard up to a mile away.

As with most birds, males do most of the talking. But females can gobble, too. During the breeding season, a hen will yelp to let the tom know where she is.

Domestic turkeys will gobble long and loud in response to almost any noise. Wild turkeys are usually much quieter, though during mating season they too will gobble in response to thunder, airplanes, radios and even slamming car doors.