Seen in Bar River

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Wild Turkeys

Having spent time on St. Joe’s Island while growing up, my travels around the Island would on occasion result in sightings of wildlife you would not normally expect to see in here in Northern Ontario like pheasants and wild turkeys. They seem to thrive there, especially on the Southern side where a visit to Don’s Garage last Summer brought me face to face with dozens of wild turkeys foraging through the yard.

Yesterday while returning from Thessalon, two large silhouettes caught my attention in a field on the North side of the Bar River flats. The first thought that came to mind was Sandhill Cranes on their return migration from the South. I pulled over to the side of the highway and quickly grabbed my camera. Upon zooming in for a better look, I was treated to the above photo opportunity as it turned out to be a couple of wild turkeys making their way across the crusted snow of the field.

Wild Turkeys are very large, plump birds with long legs, wide, rounded tails, and a small head on a long, slim neck. They are dark overall with a bronze-green iridescence to most of their plumage. Their wings are dark, boldly barred with white. Rump and tail feathers are broadly tipped with rusty or white. The bare skin of the head and neck varies from red to blue to gray.

Most of us learned turkey identification early as kids, tracing outlines of our hands to make Thanksgiving cards. These big, spectacular birds are an increasingly common sight the rest of the year, too, as flocks stride around woods and clearings like miniature dinosaurs. Courting males puff themselves into feathery balls and fill the air with exuberant gobbling. The Wild Turkey’s popularity at the table led to a drastic decline in numbers, but with a little help, are returning to area habitats in steadily increasing numbers.

Turkeys travel in flocks and search on the ground for nuts, berries, insects, and snails. They use their strong feet to scratch leaf litter out of the way. In early spring, males gather in clearings to perform courtship displays. They puff up their body feathers, flare their tails into a vertical fan, and strut slowly while giving a characteristic gobbling call. At night, turkeys fly up into trees to roost in groups.

Wild Turkeys live in mature forests, particularly nut trees such as oak, hickory, or beech, interspersed with edges and fields. You may also see them along roads and in woodsy backyards.

If you have some photos of area wildlife you’d like to share, send us an email to contribute@saultonline.com and we’d be happy to post them for everyone to enjoy!