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Predators That Kill Adult Wild Turkeys

This Turkey Tuesday is about predators – in this case, the predators that kill adult wild turkeys. Wild turkeys have developed adaptations to avoid predation, and predators are largely responsible for turkeys being as wary as they are. I’ve often said it’s tough being a turkey, and if you think about the predators that turkeys must deal with, it’s easy to see how one could reach that conclusion. Coyotes can lie in wait to ambush birds, before exploding quickly towards them, and they have an excellent sense of smell that helps them detect birds. Emerging research is showing that gamebirds such as wild turkeys may occur more in coyote diets than previously believed. Bobcats are largely sit and pounce predators, and can hunt from the ground or above ground – so they can let unsuspecting birds walk by them or under them. Interestingly, the young bobcat in the 2nd and 3rd pics repeatedly attacked the tom in these pictures across several days, and apparently was never successful – but he or she will hone their skills as they age. Red and gray foxes are known to attack turkeys, and gray foxes can climb which offers them the ability to seek prey in locations that red foxes cannot. Birds of prey can be efficient predators of turkeys, such as golden eagles who attack birds from high above and travel at speeds up to 200 mph before striking their prey. Larger hawks such as red-tailed hawks will attack turkeys (4th pic), and great-horned owls are known to be important predators of wild turkeys in many places where the species’ ranges overlap. In fact, horned owls appear to attack turkeys primarily on their roost sites which offers the owl a decided advantage – wild turkeys have poor night vision and select roost locations partially because they feel safe there – so an owl attacks an unsuspecting prey. The take home is wild turkeys deal with the presence of many predators in the landscapes they inhabit, and dealing with these predators in large part has molded the incredibly wary and keen bird we so love to pursue.

Photo of coyote by Joey Hinton, hen by Matt Addington, and bobcat by Devon Degenhardt.


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