Current populations of wild turkeys in Massachusetts were introduced in the early 1970's, after they had been eradicated from the state in the early 1900's. Statewide, the birds were introduced between 1979 and 1996, and populations flourished in much of the state. Locally, turkeys are often seen at schools, parks, residential areas, and even on the side of highways, and they have become a regular sight throughout the area. Males and females come together in larger groups to breed, where the males will make a puffed-up feather display to attract a mate - what more people think a turkey "really" looks like all of the time.
When turkeys are young they eat mostly insects, including grubs, worms, beetles, and other bugs. As they grow older, the adults prefer to eat plant-based foods, such as nuts, berries, and plants. You may even see wild turkeys eating under your backyard bird feeder, as they enjoy a snack of bird food left in the grass. Even if you do not see the birds themselves, turkey tracks are large and distinctive, having three toes in front and a smaller "heel" mark in the back. The footprints of males (toms) can be over 4 1/4" long or larger.
Turkeys are generally not dangerous to pets and humans, although, like most animals, they will defend their young if necessary. Males can sometimes become more aggressive and territorial, chasing people or pets from an area they consider "theirs". The size of an angry turkey makes them truly something you would want to deal with up close. As with all wildlife, if you see a turkey, it is best to view them from a distance so they do not become scared or defensive. Pets should never be allowed to approach any wildlife, for the safety of both animals. Also, if you happen to see a turkey crossing the road, be aware that where you see one, there may be more soon to follow! Proceed with caution before driving by the area.
Wild turkeys are beautiful and successful animals found throughout our area. Seeing one can remind you of how great and diverse our natural world really is!