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Wild Turkeys in our Garden

Updated on May 7, 2015

Wild Turkeys in our Garden

It does not have to be Thanksgiving to be turkey time. It is turkey time all year round where we live by the Mission Peak Regional Preserve in Northern California.

My first encounter with a wild turkey Mealeagris gallopavo was 7 years ago when a large bird flew over my head and startled me with the loud flapping sounds of its wings. It landed at the top of a tall fir tree in my backyard and roosted there for a while. At first, I thought it was a large bird of prey like an eagle or a hawk because I never knew that wild turkeys could fly. Now I am so accustomed to see flocks of wild turkeys strutting their stuff in our front yard, back yard, rooftop and on the hill across my home.

In this lens, I am sharing some of the snapshots I took of these wild turkeys around my home. They are so much fun to watch.

Wild turkeys are making a comeback from near extinction

Read about The Return of the Wild Turkey

Green feathers for St. Patrick's Day? - Just a shy guy

No, this wild male turkey did not put on a green suit for St. Patrick's Day. He heard my camera clicking away, hesitated, and posed for me behind this rounded bush in the frontyard.

Wild turkeys heading for the hills - Gobblers on a marathon

In the summer, the hills are parched and the grass dry as this small flock of wild turkey hunt for lizards, insects, and snakes. There are lot of tiny field mice that live in this open space which are open targets for these hungry bunch.

Wild turkeys observe same-sex flocks, meaning females hang out with females, and the males hang out with their own kinds. Turkeys also observe a pecking order or social ranking in which each bird is dominant over or "pecks on" birds of lesser social status.

The flock in this photo are all gobblers because of the obvious beards and the red-colored heads.

A gobble of wild male turkeys - In their natural habitat

I was able to catch these toms hunting and pecking in an open field on Rancho Higuera Park in our neighborhood. They were digging for tubers (chufa), a grass-like fleshly underground roots for their meal.

These male turkeys have a brightly colored heads, often with a lot of red which change colors during the breeding season. The colors change as often as every few seconds from blue to white to red. These are the colors of the American flag. It is no wonder Benjamin Franklin named this game bird our national bird.

Did you know...

Adult male turkeys are called toms and females are called hens. Very young birds are poults, while juvenile males are jakes and juvenile females are jennies. A group of turkeys is called a flock.

How to tell the female from the male turkey - Beards and spurs

The mature male turkeys have beards, a hair-like cluster of feathers protruding from the middle of the turkey's chest. The beards are apparent upon close inspection of the picture. The spurs on the back of the legs are still short. Upon maturity, these spurs will be used for establishing dominance and fighting.The female turkey does not have spurs and a beard.

It's a hen party for these ladies

Female wild turkeys (called hens) are smaller and slimmer than the males. They do not have the breast tuft (beard), have a grayish head, feathered neck, and duller feathers, mostly brownish and black. The ladies are not as pretty and showy as the males.

Photo Credit:Charlie Day DaytimeStudios

During mating season, which is around February to March, the toms or gobblers fluff their body feathers, spread their tails like fans, strut around while making gobbling sounds to attract the hens. The female turkeys go wild over this kind of behavior. The males usually have harems of five or more females to mate with during the spring and early summer breeding season. This photo was taken at the Rancho Higuera Park in Fremont, California.

Like a litmus paper

The wild turkey's bald head can change color in seconds with excitement or emotion. The birds' heads can be red, pink, white or blue.

Female wild turkeys making the rounds in our backyard - "TUT TUT TUT"

Behind the trees is Mission Peak Regional Preserve where these wild turkeys call home. Small flocks would parade around the sidewalk, visit a few neighborhood frontyards including ours. This picture was taken inside the house after my calico cat, Mali alerted me that some strange visitors were lurking around the yard.

These pictures were taken on Nov.12, 2011.

Two's company

These two hens make a pretty picture with their slim bodies and gray and brown feathers. These are considered drab colors compared to the iridescent bluish-gray, bronze and gold feathers of the gobblers. However, the drab color make a great comouflage and hide the hens when they sit on their nest.

The wild turkey is our National bird

Because it is a native bird with a proud demeanor and protective instincts, the wild turkey was Benjamin Franklin's choice for the national bird.

Scouting the place out - "Hmmm, I think I like it here."

Wild turkeys are agile flyers and this one landed on top of the backyard trellis where the hummingbird feeders were. The loud commotion caused by its flapping wings quickly dispersed all the other winged creatures in the garden.

It is official

The wild turkey is the official game bird of Alabama, Massachusetts and South Carolina.

Roosting on a fir tree

The wild turkeys usually pick fairly tall, open trees that have horizontal branches for them to perch on. This one flew to this fir tree in our backyard, roosted and made tree calls which sounded like muffled yelps as a call to communicate with others in the flock.


Big Bird

The wild turkey is the largest of North America's game birds.

Adult males, known as toms or gobblers, normally weigh between 16 and 24 pounds.

Females, known as hens, are smaller than males and usually weigh between 8 and 10 pounds.

The largest wild turkey on record weighed 37 pounds.

Turkeys see in color

Wild turkeys see in color and have excellent daytime vision that is three times better than a human's eyesight and covers 270 degrees, but they have poor vision at night.

Wild turkeys on my rooftop

The scratching sounds on the roof usually means the wild turkeys are at it again--roosting on the roof and leaving unwanted souvenirs.

Male and female wild turkey droppings

A gobbler's droppings usually take the shape of a "J" or sometimes a question mark. A hen leaves droppings that more closely resemble a spiral that is all in one pile.

The backyard fence makes a great roosting place - Girls just want to hangout

Wild turkeys are single-gender flocks, meaning the females hang out with the females, and the males with the males. These two hens have brown feathers and the males have black-tipped feathers.

There is no better time than to preen and look pretty - Getting ready to strut her stuff

This wild turkey hen looks gorgeous from behind as she contorts her body to preen and groom, condition and waterproof her feathers. The toms are not too far away getting ready for their courtship dances in the open field across the street.

It must be mating season!

Follow these sequence of pictures as a tom spots some hens and made a vain attempt to attract them. These pictures were shot on March 6, 2012 in our neighborhood.

Wild turkeys mate in early spring. - This male wild turkey gobbled after spotting the females

Three female wild turkeys (hens) were crossing the street as this lone cassanova attempted to get their attention with its courtship dance.

The male wild turkey began to do its stuff. - The turkey "FAN-dango dance"

The gobbler sees the hens, struts around the females, fans his tail, lowered his wings and drags the tips on the ground. The female wild turkey nonchalantly went on her merry way.

It was time to do that big fanout. - The gobbler turns around and spread its tail into a beautiful fan.

"Hi ladies, do ya come here often?" - The hens ignore the tom's courtship dance and quickly spirited away.

The male courtship display does not always work out. - "These ladies don't know a good thing when they see one."

This male wild turkey has an iridescent bronze body feathers and black and white bars on its wings. It has a bare head that is red and blue depending on the season, and a red wattle that hangs from the chin. What a lovely bird. I was so lucky to capture this in-your-face shot before the disappointed tom left in a huff.

Take this quick poll

Have you ever seen a wild turkey?

See results

Love of turkey

The average American eats 18 pounds of turkey every year, and more turkeys are consumed on Thanksgiving than on Christmas and Easter combined.

No ruffled feathers here

There are approximately 5,500 feathers on an adult wild turkey.

What do you think of wild turkeys - Aren't they a wild bunch

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    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I live in an apartment complex for seniors in Petaluma, CA. We have a flock of 5 who are trying to take over the swimming pool area and roosting on the cars. They've been here daily for about six weeks. They are pretty calm, even around dogs. They are very attracted to areas where we have a large snail and slug population. The neighbors are split between fascination and fear.

    • profile image

      TheDeeperWell 5 years ago

      I also have wild turkeys around my home. They sleep in the tall sycamore trees, and often fly to their beds from the roof of my house here in the Sierra foothills.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      How very interesting! I can't say I've ever encountered a wild turkey myself!

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 5 years ago

      Oh my! I am seriously thinking that picture of "wild turkeys" heading for the hills has a lot of potential!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 6 years ago from Colorado

      You might be able to start selling tickets to your turkey sanctuary. :-) I wouldn't mind have regular turkey visitations. They wouldn't last here with all of the coyotes and other predators (like humans who hunt out of season). Enjoyed your photos and all of the information shared here. Thanks!

    • annieangel1 profile image

      Ann 6 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      great lens - well done

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 6 years ago

      We also have wild turkeys where we live. I so love seeing them.