Friday, November 25, 2016

Wild Turkeys Return to New England

credit: L. Manowitz
Wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) have not inhabited New England since the 19th century, but thanks to conservation efforts the birds number in the tens of thousands and are a common sight in farm fields and roadsides.  The turkey's revival is a major conservation success story.  In Vermont efforts began with the release of 31 birds in Rutland County in 1970-71; they now occupy the entire state with an estimated population of 45-50,000.  Vermont officials have helped neighboring states restore their populations, sending birds to Maine, New Jersey and Rhode Island.  Maine now has turkeys all over the state.  New Hampshire began turkey restoration in the 70's and also enjoys a large population.

credit: AP
Habitat loss due to agriculture was the primary reason for their disappearance in addition to hunting. Turkeys prefer mature forests where they feed on nuts, berries and insects, but have adapted well to harsher suburban environments [photo].  It is not clear from the historical record whether turkey was part of the harvest feast enjoyed by the Pilgrims at Plymouth, MA.  Turkeys are still hunted today.  Want to hear their iconic gobble and the turkey's lesser known calls?
Click here.