Wild turkeys in Beaver Valley head for cover as Thanksgiving weekend approaches. Jim Bailey photo.

10 facts about the unsung hero of Thanksgiving

Did you know that wild turkeys can run up to 19 km an hour?

This weekend marks Thanksgiving but how much do you know about the turkey?

The Nature Conservancy of Canada says that the humble turkey has become so common this time of year we rarely think of its beginnings.

“The shining star of Thanksgiving spreads, this native North American gobbler wasn’t always in abundance,” the group said in a statement.

“In the early 1900s, wild turkeys had all but disappeared from some parts of Canada due to unregulated logging and hunting.”

Today, wild turkeys are found in seven Canadian provinces: New Brunswick, southern Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba, southeast Saskatchewan, southwest Alberta and B.C.’s southern interior.

Here are 10 other fun facts:

  1. Male wild turkeys are called “toms,” while females are called “hens.”
  2. At the start of spring, male wild turkeys get together in clearings to perform courtship displays. They puff up their feathers, lower their wings, fan out their tails and slowly strut, while making their famous gobble sounds.
  3. Believe it or not, wild turkeys can fly. At nighttime, they fly up into trees to roost.
  4. Wild turkeys were extirpated (locally extinct) from Ontario as a result of habitat loss and over-hunting. Reintroduction efforts began in 1984. Turkeys are now a common sight in these province. and they are continuing to expand their range.
  5. An adult turkey can have more than 6,000 feathers.
  6. In 2019, the New Brunswick Bird Records Committee added wild turkeys to the province’s official bird list. The province has an established population of approximately 5,000 wild turkeys, many concentrated close to communities along the Canada-United States border.
  7. Wild turkeys mostly inhabit forests but often wander into open fields and grasslands to feed, nest and reproduce successfully.
  8. Wild turkeys are not fussy eaters. They feed on seeds, hazelnuts, oak nuts, hickory nuts, beech nuts, acorns, apples, fruit, snails, worms and amphibians all year long.
  9. Wild turkeys can run at speeds of up to 19 km/hr
  10. Certain characteristics of wild turkey droppings, such as their shape and size, reveal the turkey’s gender and age. Female droppings are spiral shaped, while male droppings are J-shaped. The larger the diameter, the older the bird.

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