A flock of Eastern wild turkeys wanders in the woods in Harrington Park.
Wild turkeys are native to North America. The eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) is the turkey species that was encountered in the wild by the Puritans. The birds inhabit hardwood, mixed, and pine forests; in 1817 L.J.P. Vieillot first described and named the eastern subspecies using the word silvestris, meaning “forest” turkey.
Forty years ago there were no wild turkeys in New Jersey. Due to habitat changes and hunting, the eastern wild turkey population had disappeared in the mid 1800’s. In 1977 the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife reintroduced 22 wild turkeys and started relocating them two years later…the population quickly grew 1,000 fold and there are over 25,000 wild turkeys in New Jersey and over 5 million eastern wild turkeys living in an area that covers the entire eastern half of the US down to northern Florida and extends west through Illinois and north into Canada.
Benjamin Franklin commented on the wild turkey in a letter to his daughter in 1784: “…For in Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”
For more information on turkeys, please look at a previous post:
Photo taken by Pamela Phinney in HP