As Thanksgiving approaches a lot of people are trading turkey recipes. But there’s a lot to appreciate about this bird, besides its taste.
Back when the first Europeans arrived in Connecticut wild turkeys were abundant, according to state wildlife biologist Michael Gregonis of the Department of Environmental Protection.
“The early estimates indicated there were about 20,000 turkeys state wide in Connecticut. The wild turkey has long been utilized as a food source by the Native Americans and the European settlers.“
But by the early 1800s many of the state’s forests were cut down and the entire wild turkey population in Connecticut had been wiped out. Gregonis says wild turkeys need a variety of habitats, in addition to forests.
“They roost in trees at night. They feed on acorns. They need open fields, such as corn fields. Turkeys utilize waste grain that is left behind after the farmers harvest the fields. They also utilize the manure that’s spread on fields particularly during the winter periods."
Thirty years ago the state took 22 wild turkeys trapped in New York and released them in northwestern Connecticut. Since then the state’s population has blossomed. Today there are 35,000 to 40,000 wild turkeys in Connecticut. Gregonis points out they are an impressive bird.
“Wild turkeys can fly over 50 miles an hour, they can run over ten miles an hour. They have excellent eyesight and their bodies are covered 5000 to 6000 feathers and believe it or not wild turkeys can swim.”
A quiet observer can watch wild birds foraging in fields near forests. Gregonis says there’s enough food in the wild for these birds and people should not feed them.