Wild turkeys are omnivorous and their diet is quite diverse. It includes various parts of many plant species including grasses (young leaves in the spring, seeds in fall and winter), the buds and fruits of many native trees and shrubs, roots and tubers, and animals such as insects, spiders, snails, and salamanders. Acorns, nuts, and berries are a major food source for wild turkeys; principal species include oaks (Quercus spp.), hickories (Carya spp.), hazelnuts (Corylus spp.), pines (Pinus spp.), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), black cherry (Prunus serotina), sour gum (Nyssa sylvatica), hawthorns (Crateagus spp.), and sumacs (Rhus spp.), all of which grow at the Arboretum.
Wild turkeys need a mixture of woodlands and open meadow areas to thrive. You can help wild turkeys by growing a mix of hardwood and coniferous trees, providing fruiting plants, creating meadows, and avoiding pesticide use. Wild turkeys will eat sunflower seeds, cracked corn, and other bird feeder foods, but it’s best not to feed wild turkeys near homes since they can become aggressive and can also damage gardens by digging up beds and raiding cultivated fruits and vegetables.
–Nancy Rose, editor of Arnoldia