Wild Turkeys We Have Sighted Across Ontario

Wild Turkeys We Have Sighted Across Ontario

Group of Wild Turkeys in Ontario

On a windy, snowy day in Ontario, we were headed north towards Algonquin Provincial Park on one of our frequent treks in that direction.  It was a particularly stormy day as we navigated the snow drifting across the highway, and, as always, we were watching for wildlife.

Closer to Algonquin Provincial Park, we found that the road had been plowed, and sand had been applied to help increase traction.  That sand would prove to be the key factor in our finding some wildlife on this snowy trip.

Having headed east on Hwy. 35 towards the village of Dorset, we rounded a corner to find a group of six Eastern Wild Turkeys foraging for bits of sand in the middle of the road.   Wild Turkeys eat grass, plants and seeds in the warmer months of the year.  They love beechnuts and acorns, as my dad will tell you, but the availability depends heavily upon the season.  Beyond eating plant material, Wild Turkeys also will eat animals like mice when plants are buried deep in the snow, and young Wild Turkeys consume large amounts of insects in order to get much needed protein.

Wild Turkeys were once a very common sight in southern Ontario, but by 1909, they had been hunted to near extinction.  In 1984, Wild Turkeys captured in several eastern U. S.  states were released by the government of Ontario back into the forests of our province.  The release has proved very successful.

Wild Turkeys have successfully repopulated eastern Ontario and now number in the thousands.  This reality has pleased conservationists, but unfortunately, this feeling is not shared by many farmers.  This fall, near Ottawa, Canada, a flock of Wild Turkeys gobbled up thousands of dollars’ worth of white grapes that were going to be used to make expensive wine at the Domaine-Perrault winery.

As a local Ottawa naturalist said, Wild Turkeys will eat anything at ground level including wild acorns, and yes, grapes.  The vineyard is not happy and says it may look to get a permit to hunt the Wild Turkeys.

In Ontario, however, hunting Wild Turkeys is legally controlled with just a short spring and fall hunt.  It has been about two weeks since the fall hunt ended, and each hunter was only allowed to hunt and take one Wild Turkey.   So the Wild Turkeys in Ontario, like those on this winter road, now run free until next spring.

As you will hear in our video, Wild Turkeys make many different types of sounds.  The males, called gobblers, do tend to make the familiar gobble sound, a sound most of us  associate with Turkeys.  The female hens tend to make a yelp when vocalizing, which is a mixture of sounds used to warn the young Wild Turkeys of impending threats.  The male baby turkeys are called jakes, and the female baby turkeys are called jennies.

An Eastern Wild Turkey has rusty-red and greyish-white feathers.  Note the snow stuck in the feathers of one Turkey’s leg.

To think there were only a few hundred Wild Turkeys reintroduced into Ontario, and now there are over 80,000 in central Ontario.

At the end of the day, snow once again engulfed us, but we had reached our destination.

Months later, we returned to the same area near Algonquin Provincial Park, and as we set off on a very early morning hike, Bob and I were hopeful of spotting some wildlife such as Wild Turkeys on the deserted trails.

Although we came across no creatures on our very long hike,

upon our return to the community of Oxtongue Lake, we spotted a Wild Turkey running along the side of the road.

The Wild Turkey soon flew high into a tree, and as it took to the air, we had an opportunity to see its tail feathers…

before it positioned itself safely on a tree branch.

Wild Turkey tail  feathers are considered a powerful medicine by most First Nations people in eastern North America.  The feathers are also considered symbols of wisdom.

Most Wild Turkeys prefer a forest habitat with tall trees.

At nighttime, Wild Turkeys will roost on a tree branch, often spending the whole night there.

As we looked on, a baby turkey flew up into the tree to join the hen.

Hens normally remain on the ground when incubating their eggs, and they stay on the ground until their young learn to fly.

In our video, you get a chance to see the hen fly from the ground up into the trees.

We were very lucky to document Wild Turkeys both in the winter and in the summer.  Wild Turkeys are considered very smart birds that are alert to their surroundings.  Indeed, this hen followed her instincts, and with a potential threat nearby, she led her baby to safety.

Without a doubt, Wild Turkeys will remain a big part of North American culture and history.  Each Thanksgiving, they will continue to play a key role in the celebration of that event going as far back as the days of early settlers, which is when my family came to Canada.

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