Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Nature Watch: Wild Turkey


Last updated 2/23/2021 at 9:47am

A wild turkey is not something you would normally expect to see in the arid environment of Borrego Springs.

But these big birds have wandered into our community and have been spotted at De Anza Country Club, Borrego Palm Canyon, Borrego Springs Resort and even as far east as Bow Willow Campground on Highway S-2.

While the occasional gobbler wanders into the desert, most of the wild turkey in San Diego County can be found is greater numbers in more forested area. It’s quite common to see a flock while driving past Lake Henshaw or around Santa Ysabel.

Thirty years ago, you would not have found any.

The current wild turkey population of San Diego County, estimated to be as high as 50,000 birds, is the result of a successful effort that began in 1993 to reintroduce the birds to this region.

Conservation groups worked with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and nearly 300 birds were released near Julian, Ramona and south of Interstate 8.

The birds loved their new home and thrived, feeding on abundant food that even includes citrus fruit and avocado. Today they can be found from the U.S./Mexican Border to Riverside and from Oceanside to Borrego Springs.

You are not likely to confuse the wild turkey with any other bird. Standing over three feet high and often weighing more than 20 pounds, they are the bird giants of local grasslands, oak woodlands and pine woods.

These are beautiful birds when their colors shine ins bright sunlight. From a distance they may resemble a large, dark bird, but they have layered feathers that are beautifully colored with iridescent bronze and green in the right light.

Additionally they have white wing bars and tail feathers tipped with light brown or white and males have a long beard of course bristles extending several inches from the chest.

If you see one, you are likely to see several because the wild turkey is a gregarious creature, often in flocks of 20 or more birds as they forage on acorns, pine nuts, native seeds and berries along with the occasional lizard, snail, beetle or insect.

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