Wild Turkeys Foraging in Snow

Late winter is a time when the terms “wildlife carrying capacity” and “limiting environmental factors” are defined and illustrated. It is a time when populations of resident wildlife species, those that remain active through winter, reach an annual low.This is especially true in the North where accumulating snow cover limits mobility and access to dwindling food supplies.

Flocks of wild turkeys, sometimes numbering in the hundreds, are sometimes seen foraging in open areas adjacent to evergreen cover at this time of year. Cultivated farm fields, southern exposures and spring-fed wetlands are favorite habitats. I’ve had an opportunity to observe a small flock of turkeys, a “bachelor” group of toms or gobblers, for several weeks and will share some highlights.

These birds move into the stubble of a harvested corn field every afternoon, when  bright sunlight warms and softens crusted snow. Turkeys will feed on the persistent fruit of small trees and shrubs but they’re big, bulky birds and not built for that. They prefer to scratch and dig for food on the ground. In this case, the food of choice is waste grain.

Repeated scratching and digging exposes bare ground and small feeding sites. Occasionally, activity at a feeding site draws the attention of a nearby bird and he’ll run over to get in on the action. At this point the feeding behavior appears to be cooperative, with little aggression or fighting.

It won’t be long before these gobblers disperse to stake out breeding territories and locate hens. But, for now, the priority is winter survival.

Photos by NB Hunter (February, 2020). © All rights reserved.


9 thoughts on “Wild Turkeys Foraging in Snow

  1. Great photos, Nick! We have a group of about a dozen “bachelors” that roam the Washita River Valley near our orchard. I often see them from a distance, but even with my zoom, I rarely get good images. They have keen eyesight and can disappear in the blink of an eye!

    • Thanks! Turkeys are tuff. I can visualize turks roaming the river valley, always a bit too far for a quality image. The main reason I’m getting shots like this in winter is the proximity of secondary roads to cultivated fields. If I use the car as a blind i’m not perceived as a threat. I guess that’s cheating, but it allows me to observe and shoot natural behavior without stressing them (or my camera exposed to the cold).

    • I appreciate the feedback and glad you’re planning to take on the challenge. The photo of choice is that of a strutting gobbler in full display as he tries to impress the hens. As soon as we get past this cold and snow, breeding activity will intensify and I hope to capitalize! Good luck

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