Due to recent inquiries and reports from the public about turkeys acting aggressively towards people and pets, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife)
is offering information about turkey behavior and some tips to prevent turkey conflicts.
March through May is breeding season for wild turkeys, which means some turkeys may be seen acting aggressively or completely ignoring the presence of people. Males will puff out their feathers, fan their tails, and "strut their stuff." At this time of year, turkeys are leaving their large winter flocks and are seen crossing roads more often. You may see turkeys standing, walking, or pacing back-and-forth in the center of busy highways, dodging vehicles and blocking traffic. MassWildlife urges drivers to use caution while driving, as striking a turkey can be hazardous and cause substantial damage.
Wild turkeys live in a variety of habitats in Massachusetts, including suburban and urban areas. They roost in large trees at night to avoid predators. In residential areas, it is not uncommon for turkeys to roost on railings, roofs, or sometimes on vehicles. Turkeys are especially attracted to areas where bird feeders are present. MassWildlife urges people to avoid feeding wild turkeys. Feeding, whether direct or indirect, can cause turkeys to act tame and may lead to bold or aggressive behavior, especially in the breeding season. Once this behavior is established, it can be very difficult to change. People are encouraged to scare or threaten bold turkeys with loud noises or water sprayed from a hose. A leashed dog may also be an effective deterrent. For those who enjoy viewing birds, MassWildlife recommends attracting birds to your yard by planting native plants and shrubs or adding a water feature. If using a bird feeder, use feeders designed to keep seed off the ground and clean spilled seed daily, as bird seed can attract turkeys and other wild animals. If turkey issues persist, remove bird feeders entirely.
Wild turkeys live in flocks organized by pecking order. Each bird is dominant over or "pecks on" birds of lesser social status. Turkeys may attempt to dominate or attack people that they view as subordinates, and this behavior is observed most often during breeding season. Because wild turkeys have a pecking order, they may also respond aggressively to shiny objects, interpreting their own reflection as an intruding turkey. Turkeys have been known to peck at windows, automobile mirrors, or reflections in shiny surfaces (such as polished car doors) and will often continually attack the reflection until changing light conditions cause it to vanish. If a turkey is pecking at a shiny object, cover or disguise the object.
MassWildlife also reminds the public that the wild turkey is the state's official game bird and that the spring turkey hunting season begins Monday, April 24 and continues through Saturday, May 20. Licensed hunters with a turkey permit can harvest up to two bearded birds. The Young Adult Turkey Hunt will take place on Saturday, April 22. "We want to make both hunters and potential hunters aware of Wild Turkey Hunting Season because it is a great recreational activity for individuals and families to get out of the house and experience spring," says Jack Buckley, Director of MassWildlife. To learn more about turkey hunting, visit MassWildlife's Wild Turkey Hunting Regulations and Hunting Tips
For more information on how to prevent problems with aggressive turkeys, check out MassWildlife's Tips for Wild Turkey