Photo by Sara Löwgren shared via Flickr Creative Commons
When I began working with high-wildfire risk neighborhoods, I started seeing more wild turkeys than I had ever seen in my life. It seemed like every neighborhood I visited had a flock. So, what do wildfire-prone neighborhoods and turkeys have in common in Southwest Colorado? Gambel oaks. Meriam’s turkeys love acorns, and the Gambel oak shrubs produce abundant acorns while also being a major contributor to wildfire risk.
As many of us enjoy turkey dinners over the holidays, here’s a little turkey/forest/fire trivia:
- Turkeys often live in hardwood forests, where acorns are an important component of their diet.
- The turkey oak tree is named for its leaves which are shaped like a turkey foot, not for how much turkeys love its nuts.
- A turkey’s long nails enable it to find food that might be buried beneath freshly masticated fuels.
- Turkeys quickly return to burned meadows to find insects flushed out by wildfire. But, they better get there quickly, as quail and songbirds are often on the lookout for some of the same tasty critters!
Hungry for More?
Here are a few more fun turkey facts from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds:
- The origins of this animal’s name are not certain, though some suspect that it has to do with the trade route (which included a stop in the country of Turkey) taken when shipping these birds from the US to Europe.
- Turkeys can travel in groups of up to 200!
- Female turkeys are called Jennys until adolescence, after which they are called Hens. Male turkeys are called Jakes when they are young and then Toms or Gobblers upon maturity.
- Turkeys can swim! However, I couldn’t find any pictures to prove it. Trusting the ornithologists on this one.
- The National Wild Turkey Federation has loads of information on turkeys, from how to clean one to their connections with oak trees. Check it out!
- Check out this resource page from North Carolina State Extension regarding the relationship between turkeys and fire.
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