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Amazing Array of Things Wild Turkeys Eat

This Turkey Tuesday is about the amazing array of things wild turkeys eat, which is on full display in summer. Research has shown that what turkeys eat depends entirely on what is available – you will literally see dramatic variation in what is consumed from one bird to the next. In fact, if you look across all of the studies conducted on turkey diets, more than 300 things are on the list! But insects, if they’re available, are consistently used in summer by both poults and adults. Poults obviously rely heavily on insects for protein to support growth and development, but adults also use insects during summer to support feather replacement – summer is a time when lots of feather replacement occurs. But what if insects aren’t abundant? Well, research has shown that turkeys will make it work, eating more seeds and soft mast such as blackberries – interestingly, soft mast provides moisture that turkeys also get from insects, so it’s believed that greater use of soft mast may offset situations when insects may be lacking. Obviously, turkeys peck as they’re feeding, but there’s more to their strategies than meets the eye – they’ll peck as they chase prey, stalk prey, tug on prey to dislodge it, and even jump vertically to obtain food. The take home is, wild turkeys can and will eat many food items and use whatever means at their disposal to obtain those items. Their ability to obtain and use so many food items speaks volumes about their adaptability.

Picture © Tes Randle Joll

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