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Strong Foundation

This Turkey Tuesday is about a strong foundation – the foundation in this case being the legs and feet on which turkeys stand. Obviously, turkeys use their legs to walk around and run away from danger, but those same legs are instrumental to turkeys being true omnivores – meaning they have an incredibly diverse diet. Many of us spending time in the outdoors are seeing signs of turkeys scratching to obtain food like the tom in this picture – this is a common sight as fall transitions into winter and food items start to become scarce. Unlike many gamebirds, turkeys have rugged legs and feet with pronounced nails which allow them to scratch and even dig to find food when conditions get tough. This ability allows turkeys to eat many, many food items – early researchers said that turkeys were opportunists but not picky, were as omnivorous as the human race, and might be the master opportunist. In fact, research evaluating turkey diets has shown that they will readily consume more than 300 species of plants and an equal number of animal species! Back to those legs and feet – turkeys will disturb leaf litter to find hard mast and invertebrates, scratch the soil to find tubers and buried seeds, and even dig through snow to locate food underneath. If you’ve spent any time in areas where livestock are common, you’ve likely even seen turkeys tear apart livestock waste to find food. The take home is, turkeys use their legs and feet in many ways, an important one being to find food when it takes some digging and scratching around to do so.

Picture @ Tes Randle Jolly

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