Kalispell Montana Wildlife – Wild Turkey
Wildlife is prevalent in the Kalispell, Montana area. I recently wrote about the thrill of watching both a healthy herd of elk and the always-present deer during the winter of 2021-2022. Another animal that we see a lot of here in the Flathead Valley are wild turkeys. Below is a quick video with some photos and videos of Kalispell turkeys.
And here is some miscellaneous information about wild turkeys.
Background: Turkeys can be found waddling around many different areas of Flathead Valley. What makes this fact interesting is that turkeys are not native to Montana. The Montana Department of Fish and Game first introduced Merriam turkeys in the 1950s, starting with 13 birds (one adult male, four young males, five adult females and three young females). In the following year, 18 more were released and another 26 birds in 1956 and 1957. Eastern turkeys were also introduced at some point so both can be found in the state. Realtree.com indicates as of 2021, there were approximately 120,000 turkeys in the state. Quite an increase from none to 100K!
Identification: The male turkeys, or tom turkeys, have an obvious red neck wattle, a beard, and leg spurs. Tom turkeys average about 16 pounds in weight and 48″ in length. The female turkeys or hens are smaller and a little duller in terms of colors. And they weight about 9 pounds on average, and are about 34″ in length. When we observe a group of turkeys, they are usually a hen and her chicks together, and a bunch of toms together. We don’t usually see the males and females roaming around in the same group. Their footprints are easy to recognize as seen in this photo. They look like a bunch of arrows leading the way!
Habitat: In terms of habitat, it’s great that the turkeys adapted so well to Montana but it is also not very surprising. That is because they enjoy ponderosa pine forests, rugged terrain and grassland, all of which are common in the Flathead Valley.
Food: In terms of food, turkeys are omnivores. They eat insects, fruits, grass and grains. Similar to other animals, turkeys need to watch out for predators. Their eggs can be eaten by fox and other rodents. Bald eagles, owls and hawks can swipe a young turkey. WIld turkeys do fight back, however, and can use their leg spurs to kick at a predator. They can also use their bodies to ram a threat, and can bite with their beaks.
Sleeping: As you probably saw in the video above, the turkeys in our area are often found nesting in a tree. Based on our experience, they settle in at nighttime and stay for the night, only flying away in the morning. Apparently though, they don’t sleep straight through the night. In order to stay safe, as with many other birds, they have very short REM cycles, but have a lot of them throughout their sleep-time. That way they’re usually aware of what is going on around them so they can move if necessary. And when it’s time to move, turkeys can fly (even though they are more usually seen walking). They fly in short spurts close to the ground. That’s usually just long enough to get somewhere safe.
And that’s it for turkey behavior. They’re another fun animal to watch as they are prevalent… Turkeys are usually the cause of traffic jams going up my driveway. Not many other animals would purposely get in the way of a car. And while I didn’t see it mentioned anywhere else, I’ve got to say from my observations, turkeys are not that intelligent.
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