Where the Wild Turkey Lives

At one time, there were a lot of wild turkeys in the US, spread over a lot of land. For various reasons, the numbers dwindled. However, they have been replanted in many places, including in some places where they were either non-existent or in small numbers. In order to plant or manage them, it is necessary to know what their habitat is.

Turkeys are birds of the uplands and thrive in forested areas, especially those with conifers. This is for two major reasons; food and shelter. Wild turkeys, in the spring and summer, will eat grasses and seeds, such as pine nuts, like most game birds. Later in the year, though, in preparation for the cold of winter, they prefer high protein food like pine nuts and berries. These allow the birds to put on weight to see them through when food is scarcer.

Unlike many birds, turkeys don’t make lengthy migrations, so a good fall food supply is important for them to survive the bitter cold. Pine seeds are especially high in protein and allow the birds to put on a layer of fat. At the same time, the forests also provide food through the rest of the year. 

More importantly, forests provide shelter. Turkeys tend to be more solitary, so there usually aren’t large flocks that can lend each other heat. Fir and pine help keep snow and rain off the animals as well, and are good as wind breaks.

Dense thickets of bushes are also helpful to these birds, both as a food source and for shelter. The coloration of the shrubs and trees additionally provide wild turkeys with the means for hiding, primarily due to their protective camouflage. The feathers, like those of many species of grouse, are various shades of brown, black and white. This means that with enough bushes and trees, these birds can avoid detection by many of their natural predators.

Turkeys aren’t known as powerful fliers so they also need ready access to water. In fact, it is common to find these game birds within a mile or two of a water source. They also need gravel for their gizzards so the food they eat can be crushed and digested. This means that they will often be found in areas that have rocky outcrops. The rocks also furnish shelter and hiding places.

Wild turkeys are birds of the forest and mountains. They prefer areas with plenty of trees and bushes for food and shelter, as well as an adequate supply of fresh water. Their habit is thankfully not uncommon, and after a decline in numbers, the species is now again on the increase.