Corn and wild birdseed may attract wild turkeys

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One of the lovely things about living in the country is the wildlife one can attract by tossing out whole or cracked corn in winter. At dusk, the deer arrive; at night the opossums come scrounging around; and during the day, we get a variety of birds including jays, black birds of all sorts, crows, and wild turkeys.

We do so love our wild turkeys. So odd looking, they almost seem closer to dinosaurs than birds.

Ben Franklin once compared the turkey to the bald eagle: “For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

Ben liked turkeys, too.

This year, we’ve had up to sixty turkeys in the yard at the same time. It is spectacular to see them flying over the house (yes, they do fly, and they sound like the bird equivalent of a jet plane going overhead) or running down the driveway in a long line. They aren’t always quiet birds, so it’s often easy to hear them coming, and their gobbles and weird noises make me smile. They are our best daily entertainment.

Our large, boisterous flocks remind me somewhat sadly of a single young male turkey that would wander through the yard of our previous house, often enough that we named him Kirk. I don’t know that Kirk the Turk was particularly courageous, as Ben Franklin postulated, although he did routinely brave close proximity to our house and dog. Rather, Kirk was a lonely fellow, and he tried to flock with our last guinea, Fred, and our chickens. He would hang out for hours by the hen pen and follow Fred around the pen. The chickens ignored him, Fred seemed to think he was better company than the chickens, and our cats, watching from the windows, were fascinated by the gigantic bird that was twice as big as they were.

Kirk spent much of the summer and early fall in our yard although he never roosted there at night. He’d come, hang out with Fred for a while, and then leave again. He disappeared later that year. I hope he didn’t become a neighbor’s Christmas dinner, but it’s possible. Turkeys do flock in the fall and winter, so it’s just as likely he hooked up with a flock like the birds trampling through our yard daily.

If you live in an area where there are wild turkeys, and you want them to visit, put out wild birdseed and/or corn (whole or cracked) in an area away from your house where they might discover it. I throw the food on the ground, rather than a bird feeder. You’re likely to get other birds feeding on this food, too, but once the turkeys discover it, they are likely to keep returning as long as you keep supplying them with free meals. Once they start visiting, you can gradually move the food to a location where you can see the turkeys more easily. We have ours very close to the house so we can enjoy watching them from our living room.

Meet Leslie Miller

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