Thanksgiving Look at Wild Turkeys

Wild Turkey (Great American Cock) by John James Audubon

When settlers first began moving west, the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) made its home throughout the continent, east of the Rocky Mountains.  By the 1830s, however, John James Audubon (1785-1851) noted the beginning of a decline in population, writing that turkeys were “less numerous in every part of the United States, even in those parts where they were abundant thirty years ago.”  Over-hunting caused wild turkey prices to rise steeply, which helped launch domestic turkey farms.

Wild Turkey (Great American Hen) by John James Audubon

By the early 1900s, hunting and habitat loss had eradicated the wild turkey from the northeast.  Thanks to reintroduction programs, it has rebounded strongly – so strongly, in fact, that it is actually considered a nuisance animal in some communities. The eastern shore of Staten Island is apparently now overrun with wild turkeys that stop traffic and, according to a recent article in the New York Times, “frighten small children, and snatch cookies out of their hands.”

Fearsome birds, indeed. Manhattan has its own wild turkey, Zelda, who has lived for years now in Battery Park.  I hope to see her soon.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

Leaves on NYC's High Line, from a walk on Monday.

Explore posts in the same categories: 2011, Birds, Fall, In the City, November, Seasons, Wildlife/Natural History

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6 Comments on “Thanksgiving Look at Wild Turkeys”

  1. […] Zelda before ever seeing her, touched by her appearance and survival on our crowded island where great flocks of her ancestors once thrived.  Several times, I set out for the southern tip of Manhattan to meet her.  But she […]

  2. ailsapm Says:

    Saw Zelda last time I was down in Battery Park, she’s quite a character. Hope she had a safe and warm Thanksgiving. I hope you did too. xxx

  3. For those with an interest in wild turkeys, or in fact nature of any kind, I encourage you to seek out Illumination in the Flatwoods by Joe Hutto – a study on raising imprinted wild turkeys in Florida. I watched a documentary version of the book a few months ago and was so spellbound by it I had a copy imported from Canada. Happy thanksgiving to you Mel and all your readers.

    • Thanks so much, Mark. I actually caught the end of that documentary on television, and wished that I had seen it all. I didn’t even know Hutto had written a book. Thank you for the link, and for the happy thanksgiving wishes.

  4. Mr. Mantooth Says:

    Perfect Thanksgiving post. Long live Zelda!

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