Thursday, May 07, 2009

Wild Turkey Sightings

Wild turkeys reestablished in Christian County, KY

Wild turkeys in northeastern Christian County

I saw a little flock of wild turkeys a few weeks ago in northeastern Christian County (KY). They weren't frightened enough to fly away. Instead they trotted down the road in front of my car for at least two hundred yards and then ran across the field to a little creek which they followed into the woods.  Every now and then, I could see their heads bobbing along through the tall grass.

Several days later, in the southeastern corner of the county, I surprised another little flock of turkeys on a remote rural road. It was a startling experience for me, too. The turkeys immediately took flight, rising into the air right in front of my car with a great flapping of wings. They didn't fly high -- they were hardly ten feet above the ground -- but they flew fast.

My third turkey sighting of the spring came about a week later. I was driving up the lane to our house, As I reached the top of the hill, where the woods end and the field begins, I saw a turkey with his feathers all spread out -- a tom, I assume. Three other turkeys were with him, and I assume they were females.  They all flew into the woods as soon as they saw me.  That is the second time I've seen turkeys near our house.

According to the Kentucky National Wild Turkey Federation website, a flock of 62 wild turkeys was released in Christian County in 1978. Thirty years later, they seem to be well-established -- at least, in some rural areas that I travel.

Still, the turkeys aren't as plentiful as they once were. In Perrin's history of Christian County, KY, he mentions the stories an old timer told of "enormous flocks of wild turkeys" in the area around Lafayette, in southwestern Christian County.

And in Muhlenberg County, Christian County's neighbor on the northeast, the big birds were so numerous that they were considered pests. People said that a corn crop was in danger of being eaten by turkeys from the day it was planted until the day it was harvested.

In 1845, an effort was made to kill as many turkeys and squirrels as possible within a 60-day-period. It was apparently quite successful; according to the old story, the farmers were able to raise good corn crops for many years thereafter. (Source: A History of Muhlenberg County (p. 100) by Otto Arthur Rothert. Published by J.P. Morton, 1913.)

I've heard some of our farmer neighbors talk about the quantity of grain that the turkeys consume in the fields. I am sure that it can be a problem. From my viewpoint as an interested observer, though, I'm glad the turkeys are back.

Related posts:
A Big Flock of Wild Turkeys
Wild Turkey Breaks Bus Window
Grass, Water, and Trees


Mark said...

It's pretty cool to see a flock of wild turkeys. We see them along the road to our house. I have seen flocks of about 20. We are close to Berry College in Rome, Ga. Berry has what they call the world's largest campus (about 26,000 acres) and most of it is wooded. That makes for a great wildlife refuge.

Genevieve said...

I remember that you wrote another comment about the number of deer along your road too, Mark. I'm sure that there's all sorts of other wildlife as well. Do you have feral hogs there?

Mark said...

I have never seen or heard of any feral hogs in the area, but that doesn't mean there aren't any. I used to see something about a lost bear in the area occasionally but it's been a while since that happened. I imagine that Berry College wouldn't like having feral hogs, so they might eliminate them. The area surrounding Berry is slowly developing - still largely forest, but more and more homes - so that might discourage animals that are not as adaptable as deer and, apparently, turkeys.

Bill Harper said...

My mom used to live on Lake Barkley. Once, driving back home to Illinois through Land Between The Lakes, we saw a flock of wild turkeys cross the road. It's the only time and only place I have ever seen them. Thanks for the historical info about wild turkeys in southwestern Kentucky, Genevieve. Interesting blog!

Genevieve said...

Feral pigs are bad news for all kinds of native species, both plants and animals. I'm glad to hear that they're not a problem in your woods, Mark.

Genevieve said...

Hi, Bill. According to the Kentucky National Wild Turkey Federation site, this area's native wild turkeys would have been completely eradicated, but for a farmer named Shelley Nickel. He lived in the Land Between the Lakes area and made a mission of protecting the wild turkeys on his farm. However, those in Christian County are probably descended mostly from the flock of turkeys that was imported from Mississippi.

Runawayimagination said...

A flock of 20-30 wild turkeys lives in the 150+ acres of woods & fields behind our house. This time of year we see them in our yard several times a week. Sometimes they roost high in the tallest oak trees behind us, making a great commotion as they hope from one branch to another seeking the perfect perch for the night. It's fun to hear them communicating while foraging in the woods. It often sounds like one is telling jokes, occasionally inspiring waves of giggling gobblers

Genevieve said...

I can imagine that it's fun to hear them. When we first moved out here, no one was using the barns behind our house and the vultures often roosted there at night. I always enjoyed hearing them cooing and chirping to each other.

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