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A True Omnivore

This Turkey Tuesday is about being a true omnivore – meaning you eat both plants and animals. Wild turkeys are true omnivores and are adapted to grab and process many kinds of food. They lack teeth, so they grab prey, store it in their crops, grind it up in their gizzard, and then their highly acidic digestive system takes it from there. But these pictures sent to me from Dexter Patterson take having a diverse diet to a new level! This bird grabbed the mouse, shook it violently for a bit presumably to kill it, and then spent a few minutes swallowing it. George Hurst, who studied turkey diets extensively, recounted a story once of 2 toms tearing apart and consuming a songbird who was under the influence of alphachloralose that was in bait meant for the toms so they could be anesthetized and marked. Many of us turkey hunters have killed toms in the spring, particularly in the afternoon after they’ve had time to eat, who had crops containing lizards, small snakes, and salamanders. I even watched 3 toms one afternoon many years ago wading around in water grabbing crayfish, some of which were so large that it took the toms a few minutes to work them down their throats! The take home is, when we think about what turkeys eat, we often focus mostly on seeds, insects, and vegetation – but turkeys can and will eat all sorts of vertebrates, including small mammals.

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