Courtesy of Wildcare.
This is the time of year when many people who think of turkeys are thinking about a delicious holiday feast. My husband and I are vegetarians, so navigating through the holidays can sometimes be a little tricky for us when it comes to those special meals. That may be the reason I especially love seeing wild turkeys this time of year.
Our home backs right up to Trione-Annadel State Park, and one of the great pleasures of this is viewing the local wildlife. When we first moved here a few months ago, we saw a small group of turkeys walking through our yard and neighborhood on a regular basis. One neighbor told us they were known as “the turkey brothers.” They had a routine walk-through every day and roosted in a neighbor’s tree at night. You can imagine how upset I got when my son was visiting and, while walking his dog to the car, the dog got away, ran down the road, and chased the frightened and startled turkey brothers. It was quite a long time before we saw the brothers again, and I felt very bad about it. Dogs and wildlife are never a good combo.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife introduced turkeys for hunting purposes in the mid-60s, but we also had native turkeys here at one time. They are a very successful species. They are omnivores and their natural diet includes insects, seeds, acorns, nuts, berries and more. Under the “and more” category is the food that humans put out for them. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s “Keep me Wild” campaign tells us that we should not be feeding turkeys or any other wildlife. In our area there is plenty of food for them to eat.
Turkeys mate in the spring and hens usually lay 10 to 14 eggs. After an incubation period of 28 days, the young turkeys hatch, and unlike many birds, they are ready to go and usually leave their nest, along with mom, shortly after hatching. I always loved seeing two or three hens walking with their youngsters along the road we lived on in Glen Ellen. By fall, the young have grown and you will see large flocks of turkeys.
At our former home, something magical happened every Thanksgiving. When we took our morning walk, there was a property on our road where we often saw turkeys. The magical part was that almost every year on Thanksgiving Day itself, we would see them. I liked calling out to them and wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving. This year, I thought we would be missing this ritual, but I was wrong. Since the bad incident with my son’s dog, we hadn’t been seeing much turkey activity here, but on the day before Thanksgiving I looked out our bedroom window in time to see about 20 turkeys in our backyard. I was thrilled to see them, but it got ever better, when they returned on Thanksgiving Day. Magic still happens!
This year, the holidays have a different feel. There is a lot of sadness and sense of loss. We are so grateful to have our home and to have friends to share a glass of wine or a meal with, as well as to still see our wild neighbors, many of whom lost their own homes. We look forward to participating in the rebuilding of our community and watching Mother Nature bring back the natural beauty of the Valley of the Moon.
Sharon Ponsford is a a longtime volunteer with Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue and a former board member of the California Council of Wildlife Rehabilitators. She lives in Glen Ellen. If you have questions or would like to ask her about our local wildlife, please email her at email@example.com.