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Re: The Urban Turkey

Marilyn and all,

There's nothing wrong with the turkeys, and their behavior is not due to
mixing with domestic or semi-domestic stock. You are seeing more of them
because there are many more to be seen, and it could get better. Turkey
populations in many parts of the state have entered an exponential
growth phase following successful reintroduction efforts; the state
population has gone from about 30,000 around 1990 to over 100,000 and
counting now; All 100 NC counties now have turkeys. Virtually all
turkeys used in these reintroduction efforts were wild birds captured
either in other parts of NC or from other states, where they were
usually swapped for something NC had lots of, like otters. Wildlife
biologists learned the hard way  over 40 years ago that captive reared
stock or domestic turkeys would not produce viable populations (the
stocked birds would not last long enough to reproduce) and could
actually hinder the increase of existing residual wild populations by
introducing several devastating diseases of turkeys.

Their behavior on the side of the four-lane is due to their
intelligence; they recognize that as long as they stay out of the way of
the speeding cars, the cars pose no threat. As a devoted turkey hunter
and watcher who never misses an opportunity to closely observe these
magnificent birds, I can assure you that if a vehicle stops and the
occupants do anything out of the ordinary, the birds will usually vanish
rapidly into the nearest woods. Unlike their "Butterball" domestic
counterparts (probably descended from the Mexican races, BTW), wild
turkeys are supremely well equipped to succeed in their environment and
rapidly adapt to hazards and opportunities the environment presents.
(Although I guess you could say butterballs are well adapted to the
interior of a 1,000 ft long turkey house in Sampson County;-) ). The
NCWRC biologists have come to realize that the birds are far more
adaptable than previously thought, and they are thriving in areas where,
40 years ago, no one would expect them to make it.

Regarding Josh's comments on the behavior of these birds to hunter-made
turkey calls: in my experience, they all duck and leave if you make the
wrong sounds! Actually, calling a wild turkey into range (within 30 or
so yards) may be one of the most difficult, and exciting, challenges in
hunting; the birds have incredible eyesight and hearing. Two old clichés
about turkey behavior and  hunting are quoted often because they are,
best I can tell, true: 1. Whereas a deer identifies  a motionless,
seated hunter as a tree stump, wild turkeys suspect all tree stumps to
be hunters, and 2. If turkeys had a sense of smell comparable to their
sight and hearing, none would ever be shot.

On a different front, I saw three brown creepers and a hairy woodpecker
along with large numbers of the other usual winter woodland suspects at
Hemlock Bluffs on Saturday. No sign of any migrants.

Take care,

Clyde Sorenson