Urban Turkeys…By Brad Marks

Hi all, we have finally made our way to Dauphin Island for the migration. A bit of a letdown for our first couple of days, but things are likely to improve with the current storm. Not to wish additional hardships on our Gulf crossers, however, the high winds and rain will likely result in fallout conditions as soon as the weather improves. Going to let Brad take the Intrigued controls back over while I go in search for an umbrella.

Take it away Brad…

Legend has it, if Ben Franklin would have had his way, the turkey would be the national symbol of the United States.  We all know the turkey “lost out” to the bald eagle, but you have to admit we ended up with a much better symbol.  However, the turkey has since taken over, at least in population numbers.

In 2022, Jan and I ended up seeing turkeys in five states.  That’s correct, five different states.  Some of the states may very well be obvious, but I bet at least one will surprise you.  It sure surprised me.  I’ll walk through our year of turkeys from East to West.

But first, a little turkey history and lore.  What is a group of turkeys called?  Hands up for “gaggle”?  The word gaggle is thought to be based on an old English word “gagelen” meaning to cackle.  Maybe a “gang,” but only if in neglected urban areas.  What about just a plain old flock?  The word “flock” is good generic term for any grouping of birds.  How about a “rafter”?  Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding.  We have a winner.  A group of turkeys is properly referred to as a rafter of turkeys.  I guess this is like a “murder” of crows, which doesn’t make sense to me either.  Some think the term “rafter of turkeys” comes from the fact that they like to sleep in tree branches or other high-up places.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Turkeys like to sleep off the ground, usually in trees.  Or where the rafters of a house or barns would be.

Urban Turkeys by Brad Marks

Hit the jump to read more about Brad’s year of Turkeys!

This isn’t a very good photo.  In fact, it’s pretty bad.  I took it at the extreme end of the zoom on my mobile phone through a window screen very early in the morning.  My DSLR was upstairs and the turkeys were moving through our yard very quickly.  By the time I saw them, I didn’t have time to get the camera.  They were also moving quickly so I settled for a crummy photo.  (as Brian says, “if there’s no photo, you didn’t see it” or something like that)  In days of old, people would find them early in the morning roosting in the rafters of a barn or house that was under construction.  Don’t blame me, I’m just reporting what I find.

A young male turkey is called a “jake”.  Once they are two years or older you can refer to them as a gobbler (started all the way back in the early 1700’s) or more commonly a “tom”.   Young female turkeys are called “jennys”.  Older females are called hens.

The first state in our East to West tour is Massachusetts.  No, we weren’t in western Mass where the forests of the Berkshire Mountains are.  We were in urban Brookline (the first suburb adjacent to and directly west of Boston).  Jan and I were walking a couple of blocks south of Beacon Street (one of the busiest east-west thoroughfares in the Boston area). She spotted this one in a neighborhood right next to a stop sign.

Urban Turkeys by Brad Marks

A male was a few blocks away on a prior visit; trying to impress a female.

Urban Turkeys by Brad Marks

We were a block or so from the hospital district in Brookline.  Behind us was a very busy intersection with dozens of pedestrians moving between two connecting hospitals and a subway train line.  The turkeys didn’t seem to care at all.

Our second state on the East to West tour is Ohio.  We were driving through the backwoods where you would expect wildlife, on our way to The Wilds, a partner/extension of the Columbus Zoo.  We were on our way for a Wild Side Tour when the GPS app took us on some suspect roads.  While slowing down for oncoming tractors on a one-lane road this rafter of turkeys ran across in front of us.  They trotted along the edge of the road for a few seconds and disappeared into the woods. 

Urban Turkeys by Brad Marks

Jan was able to catch them with her iPhone just before they disappeared.

Continuing west, of course, we have turkeys in our backyard in central Illinois, the third state.  Our property shares a wooded ravine that is probably 100 yards across where our house is.  The ravine runs for a mile or more down to the river and gets wider as it goes.  The best time (but worst for photos) was when an entire rafter, poults included, was in our backyard with deer wandering through.

Urban Turkeys by Brad Marks

And a few impatient teenagers trying to get away from the rest into the neighbor’s yard.  They probably thought the adults wouldn’t notice.

Urban Turkeys by Brad Marks

Every now and then if we go outside early morning, we can hear the turkeys talking from the trees.  It seems the local owls like to torment them.  When the sun is just up, a barred owl will make its signature  “Who cooks for you?” call.  Then all heck breaks loose with the turkeys gobbling to each other.  I can’t help but imagine a gathering of immature middle school owls laughing.  Then the class clown owl will probably say, “here hold my mouse and watch this” and starts up the turkeys all over again.

A friend of mine lives on a river in the suburbs of Chicago.  Dave has turkeys all over his yard.  He frequently scatters cracked corn outside of his sun room in hopes of attracting them, which of course, works.  Dave has done this for so long that offspring of the original generation of turkeys know to come here for a snack every now and then. 

Urban Turkeys by Brad Marks

This turkey gets rather insistent and pecks on the window if there’s no cracked corn snacks ready for them.  I’ve been there; it’s loud and a bit startling if you don’t know it’s going to happen.

Heading a bit further west, and up in elevation, the fourth state is Colorado.  Jan and I were driving around exploring the area.  We left the interstate a few minutes before and were driving on a very busy street somewhere between Castle Rock and Littleton, facing the Front Range.  Frankly, I think I was lost.  But the mountains were directly in front of us and how can you go wrong looking at mountains?!  A red light stopped us in traffic near a community college. 

Urban Turkeys by Brad Marks

This rafter was making short work of some landscaping.  They seemed to be oblivious to the traffic and noise just a few feet away from them. 

OK, are you ready for this?  The fifth state on our East to West tour where we saw wild turkeys is . . . drum roll please . . . Hawaii!  Yes, you read that correctly.  We experienced turkeys on the Big Island of Hawaii.  We saw them at two different parts of the island, on two separate occasions, both times at similar altitudes, between 1000-2000 feet of elevation.  As with most non-indigenous birds on the Big Island, turkeys were brought in as a game bird.  There are an estimated 18,000 turkeys on the Hawaiian Islands.  Turkeys were first brought to the islands in the early 1800s from Chile.  Some of the birds living there today are descendants of the original stock.   Four hundred turkeys from Texas were released at the Pu’uwa’awa’a (poo oo-wah ah-wah ah) Ranch in the 1960s.  Having no predators, except for the occasional mongoose eating their eggs, they have thrived on the island. 

Urban Turkeys by Brad Marks

This rafter was near Waikola Village, across from a small shopping center on a rather busy street.

For fun, they can be seen racing tourists in rental cars.  I think this one was preparing for a 50-mile endurance race.  It was moving at a brisk pace, almost, but not quite, keeping up with the 25MPH traffic flowing by.  Nice stride, for a turkey.

Urban Turkeys by Brad Marks

This next pair were a bit further up in elevation near the Kalopa State Recreation Area.  They were strutting down the middle of the road. 

Urban Turkeys by Brad Marks

The one on the left came right up to our window and wanted to see inside.  He (or truthfully it could have been a she) was tall enough to look directly in the window of our mid-sized SUV rental.  Its head was right about where the side view mirror was.  They were quietly cackling/gobbling to each other for a couple of minutes while we watched and listened with the windows down.  Smartphone Translate caught a bit of the conversation.  It went something like this:

“Food please.”

“They aren’t going to feed you.”

“They are tourists, aren’t they?”

“Tom, you just had lunch.”

“So what?!”

“You don’t want to be too stuffed for dinner, do you?  Here, have a mint.  It’s wafer thin.” 

“Better bring me a bucket!”

They quickly lost interest in us (no food).  We slowly pulled ahead once we thought they were safely off to the side of the road.  Apparently, they weren’t quite done with us.  One of them decided to give chase and kept pace with our rental car up to about 20 MPH before it got bored and returned to its friend. The two-some then harassed the car behind us.

Can turkeys fly?  Yes, but they prefer not to.  They are able to make short flights at up to 55 MPH, but they really prefer to walk, like the Hawaiian goose, or nene featured here.  Not sure who crossed the road first:  the chicken or the turkey.   I do know the turkey is much faster.  Have you seen the size of those drumsticks?!

Thank you for reading.

If you want to see more of our turkey photos, please visit here.

Credits

Thanks again to Jan and Allyson for proofreading and editing.  Thanks to Jan for nearly all of the photos in this article.  Thanks to my friend Dave for the photos from his backyard.

85 thoughts on “Urban Turkeys…By Brad Marks”

        1. I’m with you – I keep telling the local Turkeys that nest in our woods that they are extremely lucky as our distant neighbors do enjoy themselves a wild drumstick. Sadly, they never thank me ha.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. We can hear them in the trees overnight and early morning, but don’t often see them flying up there. I’ll have to pay more attention. Thanks Kelly.

      Like

    1. Grazie mille Silvia. Sono molto contento che ti siano piaciuti. Mi scuso se la mia utilità di traduzione online non ha ricevuto una risposta perfetta. (Thank you very much Silvia. I’m very glad you enjoyed them. Apologies if my online translate utility didn’t get the reply just perfect.)

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I loved the feral turkeys we had out here. They all of a sudden disappeared. The rumor I heard was a recently transplanted Californicator didn’t like them, made up a cockamamie story about the turkeys ganging up one her kid and kicking is butt. So without a trial or jury, the Village officials pronounced the turkeys guilty of being thugs, rounded them up, and executed them. That’s the version I got from a reliable source. Whatever happened, we no longer have feral turkeys.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tim, that’s very sad the the local official didn’t use their larger brain for a better solution. Luckily, there are plenty of them left outside the reach of your Village officials.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Larger brain? Hahahaha! I got a letter from the P&Z official saying my address was not visible enough. The letter was three pages long, poorly written with childish nonsense about what if I needed emergency services at 11:00 pm, but they can’t see your address? My supposedly none visible address shines bright when light shines on it in the darkness. But we are not in Kansas or the 80s anymore, and there are geolacation services that can find every address, and turkey, in our village, regardless of how visible the address is. Then I had a scary thought that our emergency responders don’t have geolocation services. But I know the fire chief and he’s a with-it guy, so I think at least the fire department can find things. Our police force is another matter. I think the village gets all the police academy rejects.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Sort ironic that we live just outside the village limits and have highly reflective signs with our house numbers on them by the street. Sad though that the first part of the street in the village does NOT have reflective signs with their house numbers out front. I guess we, in the county, are easier to find than those in the city.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Houses in our village are hard to find: “Turn left at the first goat, don’t cross the ditch until the last cow, cross the ditch, turn left, then right, then turn right again just past the silly goose.” In the early 80s, the fire department assigned fire addresses and posted reflective white letters on red backgrounds at all the houses. Our original fire address has long been eaten up by the sun. Lowes and Home Depot don’t sell fire numbers, and I want to have as little interaction with village officials as possible, so I along with many other villagers, have replaced the fire numbers with run-of-the-mill address numbers. But like I said, with geolacation services readily available, there’s little need for addresses on properties these days.

            Liked by 2 people

          2. Ours isn’t quite that complicated. But when you share ZIP codes with a neighboring town, pizza guys can never find your house.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. I’ve never had pizza delivered, but I had to give up on Amazon. The local yocal drivers they use had no problems finding our property, but since our house is covered with foliage, they couldn’t see the house, or the “Deliveries” shed I built for drivers to put packages in. One FedEx the driver called and said he was at the right address but didn’t see a house. I asked him if could see the box that said “Deliveries” on it. He said yeah. Ph! So that’s what that shed is for?” Duh!

            I think I’m going to take the shed down. The few deliveries I get at the house now, the drivers can’t figure it out. I mostly get stuff delivered to my office or to the post office street address and then the PO gives me a pick up slip or puts the boxes in parcel lockers.

            However, when an order won’t fit in my sports car, I have it shipped to the house. Three weeks ago, a UPS driver walked right past the Deliveries Shed, walked 70 feet through a jungle-like path and left a $700 27-inch Dale monitor on our front doorstep in the rain. As you may know, it rarely rains here, but since things are against us, it was raining. I did not get a delivery notice. And since we rarely use the front door, the monitor sat out in the rain for three days before we found it. If he would have put in in the deliveries shed it would have been protected and I would have found it right away. I don’t know about delivery drivers.

            The monitor was soaked. I had a dragout with the seller because they didn’t send out shipping or delivery notices. And they said they have no crotorl of UPS drivers. That is true. I let the monitor dry out for three days before I tried it. It works.

            Liked by 1 person

          4. I’ve become pretty good friends with our UPS driver – lord knows I see him enough. He takes good care of our stuff, always makes sure he puts items under our covered porch, knows to tap on the glass to alert us but not disturb the dogs too much and best of all… has ALL the local gossip if we need to know what’s going on (yes, a double edged sword). We always know when he has a day off when the packages are just dumped in the driveway.

            Liked by 1 person

          5. We used to have the same UPS driver, who loved to deliver to our place because of al our roses and greenery. He used to shoot the breeze with me when he delivered on Fridays when I was home. But the drivers are not consistent anymore. I think they make them change routes so they don’t get too chit-chatty with the people they deliver to.

            Liked by 1 person

        2. As Brad mentioned we were issued bright red apparently reflective number plates to put out on our rural country road – never put it up and I can say the times we have needed emergency service house calls (don’t ask) they have successfully found us here in the woods so thankfully our volunteer services do know how to use GPS ha.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. You didn’t get a childish letter from the county threatening you with a fine if you didn’t put up your red number plates? Lucky you.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. A neighbor called me to attend a sneaky village meeting today. I went to it. The speaker said that all property owners that abutt the project area were notified three years ago. A whole lot of us said we did not get notifications. There was a suggestion the beavers ate out notices. Buttheads!

            Liked by 1 person

          3. Yikes, you do have a problem out there. We are beaverless so I can’t use that excuse, but knock on wood no issues since moving out here. Probably helps my neighbor have us and several of the county members over to celebrate the 2A.

            Liked by 1 person

          4. Lots of Winonas with their big brown beavers out here. They are Primusordial if you get my gist. I actually met some neighbors for the first time at the meeting. We are pretty hermity out here.

            Liked by 1 person

          5. Ha, a Primus fan – they are an acquired taste for sure (sort of like Devo). There are still neighbors (in the country sense) out here we have never met, others once or twice, mostly from over-curiousity when we were building our house. I know the people to the North and South really well and see each other from time to time to practice the 2A, holiday parties or more likely whenever one needs any help. Life as I like it!

            Liked by 1 person

          6. I love Devo, also. Although, Wall of Voodoo is my favorite of the New Wave post Puck era groups. You are down right social.

            Liked by 1 person

          7. I soured a bit on Devo when they butchered my Stone’s Satisfaction (Charlie Watts must be turning in his hearing that weak drum groove). I do like Wall of Voodoo – favorite by far is Far Side of Crazy.. now that is how a drum groove is played. Admittedly, not sure what the hell was up with their Do it Again video, holy cow that is a trip.

            Like

          8. I love that Do it Again video. It’s so perfectly 80s antipathy of the 60s. I think Call Of The West is such a brilliant song. It really captures the sense of life out here. one of Laurie’s favorite WOV songs is Tsetse Fly. Talk about nicely weird.

            Liked by 1 person

          9. If I didn’t know better I’d say they had ChaGPT build that video for Do It Again ha. Something tells me Laurie also likes the B-52s if she is a fan of Tsetse Fly.

            Liked by 1 person

          10. Looks like it was another Western Fox Snake – her first encounter was chronicled in about the 4th paragraph here https://wildlifeintrigued.com/2021/07/16/a-totem-for-linda/. Linda wants them dead immediately, I rather relocate them to another place and tell her it is taken care of. This dumbass snake shows up 3 days later and manages to slither up on a rocker on our porch and lay out lengthwise on the arm…just sitting there waiting for her to come out. I got a very stern (more like hysterical) talking to and ultimatums left, right and up and down. It shall not be spoken about ever again…..especially in places like this she might see.

            Liked by 1 person

          11. Western Fox Snakes are similar to our gopher snakes. She needs to learn to deal. They are beneficial for dealing with rodents. Out here, people die of bubonic plague every year. No one dies of snake bites, even by rattlesnakes bites. Snakes are very effective for rodent control.

            Liked by 1 person

          12. We are not dealing with a rational woman when it comes to the Snake front. Trust me, there is no argument, no line of reasoning and certainly no reaching an understanding here. There is only Bri sees it first and no foul, Bri does his best to relocate it once seen, or she demands to see the carcass. There is no other road.

            Liked by 1 person

          13. I honestly felt really bad for that Snake, but I did give it a chance and the chair thing was just rude. Ran across two stretched across the path on my trail run today and watched a Cooper’s Hawk drop on a snake and haul it off over the car as I was driving there (thankfully Linda was NOT with me).

            Liked by 1 person

          14. She had a very bad experience with a Hawk that nearly dropped a snake into her convertible while driving one day – think it’s been like 10 years now and she is just now getting over waking up with the shakes and sweats. She is more trusting of the Owls, although she keeps one eye on the sky when we have our 6 pound Poodle out.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh great, even more competition in my ultras..sigh. Kudos for the Python reference, but you broke the man-code – NEVER ever ever did I say never admit you are lost. Fun post.

    Like

  3. Love this turkey tour across the states! For those of us who have had “close calls” with them as they try to fly across a roadway, I consider them to be evil! Their numbers have jumped and ranges have extended in recent years in Minnesota due to climate and lack of those who pray on them. Thanks Brad for filling in while the Boss is playing around down South.🤣😂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey, I wasn’t “playing” around, I was doing field work to bring my readers new and exciting and topics.. Linda: “you were playing around”..sigh, next time I leave her home hehehehe

      Liked by 2 people

    1. We’ve had many free pizzas over the years because they take 45-50 minutes to find us in a subdivision. To be fair, our small village shares a ZIP code with another village 7 miles away. The people that take the orders don’t always listen to my directions or pass them along to the drivers. Free pizza tends to be cold.

      Like

  4. The male turkeys are so colorful in the sun light, I did not know this until a couple of years ago when a flock of turkeys stopped in our yard. They are super fast runners when they need to be. Great information, thank you. 🙂 have a great day Brad.
    Hi to Dave, we just left Dauphin island and the birding did not disappoint, I gained 20 new birds to my list. 🙂 happy birding.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Sandra. We have a rafter living in the ravine in our back yard, so I sort of expect to see them there. But I did not expect to see them in urban settings. I was also amazed at how fast and how far they can run. Maybe rental cars smell fun to them because we have been chased two times. Congrats on the +20.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Good to hear you had a successful time at Dauphin. It is likely we (and my brother Ron) were there the same time you were. Did have a nasty storm one night (shook the RV like crazy), but other than that we had a great time. Didn’t spend a lot of time at the Audubon bird sanctuary as that was pretty dead, but Shell Mound, Goat Tree, airport, Pelican Peninsula and the far west end had their share of birds. Even managed to get a pair of Snowy Plovers out on the beach which I’ve been hunting for a very long time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So cool that we were at the same place this year. I was out and about almost everyday. We did not go to the west end much, but all the other spots. I just made a list of all the birds and I added 42, some photos were not so good in the dark thick woods of shell mound. But at least I got a photo. Can’t wait to see all your photos as well.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Congrats on the 42, that is a healthy allotment of new birds. The west end was badly flooded when we went there – luckily the Jeep had no issues getting through it. Ended up not being a lot there, but we did have good luck at Pelican Peninsula – the Snowy Plovers were uber-cute. Still need to go through all the pics, but as you mentioned, it was pretty dark three of the four days we were there.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Thank you, after you mentioned the snowy egret, I looked that one up and realized I did see that one as well. I wasn’t sure which one it was. That got me to 200 birds, life time..😊

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Did you mean the Snowy Plover or was that the first for the Snowy Egret. They are both cool birds, but the Snowy Plover is adorable. The two we saw were likely nesting in the dunes – they were busy drawing us away from their nest as they would run out a ways, look back and stand there until we took a few steps toward them and then they would take off again. Eventually one circled way around us and continued to watch from the place we first encountered them. That was fine with us, as we didn’t want to stress any expecting parents. Congrats on 200, you have really been adding some new birds over this last year!

            Liked by 2 people

          3. The snowy egret, well I have probably seen it before but just did not know it’s name. I have yet to edit all the photos I took as well. That is a daunting but fun task as well.

            Liked by 1 person

          4. Yep, that is the part I dread when I come back from a long trip – all the filtering and editing of the pictures I took. I keep asking Linda for an intern, but she keeps rejecting the request ha.

            Liked by 2 people

  5. Thanks for your post with all the info. We didn’t know that turkeys like to sleep higher up and a group of turkeys are a rafter, etc. But we have to admit we don’t like turkeys. We don’t like how they look like and we don’t like to eat their meat.
    All the best
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have to admit they do look a bit pre-historic. And can be aggressive in groups, especially when there is food involved. The little ones are fun to watch though. Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. They are definitely an acquired taste as they say – both visually and consumption wise. They can also get quite defensive when the mothers bring their young out – don’t be fooled by their gangly legs, they are tipped with some razor tips. With that said, I do enjoy seeing the Toms in full feather display – like a poor man’s peafowl ha. Take care and thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. They are definitely becoming more widespread – not sure if I am just noticing them more, adapting to more habitats or if there is a resurgence of some form. Now I am curious, will have to go research that. Thanks for dropping in Sharon.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Sharon. Turkeys certainly seemed to be adapted to urban settings. I suppose they look for the same food sources as other urban “pests”. Or high places to roost at night, like the trees in our back yard in the country. Thanks for dropping by.

    Like

    1. The Turkeys in our woods are fitting right in – not sure what kind of keggers they are throwing, but they’ve been making quite a racket in the mornings when I’m trying to get some sleep ha!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Right!? You’d think they were clumsy birds. I guess the slow one are the only birds that get caught in November. Thanks for dropping by Tanja.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. As one of hundreds of thousands of urban turkeys I can safely say that we enjoy being stuffed although not particularly around late November. Okay, I’m not the same kind of turkey and my town is semi-rural.

    One of our fun experiences here in Western Massachusetts happened one morning back when we used to put out bird feeders (bears not sleeping as soundly as they once did in winter put an end to that) a parade of turkeys, somewhere in the dozens, marched down the street and through our yard stopping to clean up what the smaller birds had left on the ground.

    Also, not my personal experience, but there have been cases of rogue turkeys chasing people waiting for buses on busy streets. Kind of the way a mean old goose might.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Steve. I’ve heard Tim Off Center and Not quite even tell about people being chased. Hope we don’t experience any of those turkeys, or bears, as we pass thru Western Mass this June. Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s