Have you seen Eastern Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) near your home or in a roadside field? The answer is probably yes, since Maryland now has a healthy population of more than 40,000 wild turkeys!
Wild turkeys eat foods such as insects, acorns, seeds, fruits, and leaves. They are found close to forest lines so they may safely roost in trees at night. Wild turkeys nest in spring in fields or in areas thick with vegetation. They usually lay 9–12 eggs that hatch in about 26–28 days. Sadly, more than 50% of poults will be lost to cold or predation.
Humans are not the only ones who enjoy eating turkey—so does the fox! Foxes will eat adult turkeys and nesting hens. Nest predation usually occurs by raccoons, opossums, skunks, and snakes.
Eastern Wild Turkey are fun to watch, whether they are slowly crossing the road in a straight line or clumsily landing from flight on a farm field. I remember back in the ’90s when Maryland’s turkey population was around 10,000. Today’s increase to more than 40,000 is truly something to feel good about and gobble about!
by Robyn Affron
Visitor Services & Volunteer Coordinator