Nov 26, 2013
11:36 AMThe Connecticut Story
Litchfield Is State's Top 'Turkey Town,' Hartford #4, Greenwich #5, New Haven #7
The wild turkey, symbol of Pilgrims, Thanksgiving and harvest, has made a huge comeback the last four decades and can be found in every part of the state.
The population is “large, stable and widespread — a reason to give thanks in an era when many of our local birds are declining,” Connecticut Audubon Society said in a written release.
There are 30,000-35,000 wild turkeys in the state’s 169 municipalities, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection estimates, Audubon said.
And where they are living in great abundance may surprise you.
On the Audubon’s Top 10 list of “Turkey Towns,” are the expected: rural Litchfield, No. 1; Barkhamsted, No. 2; and Woodbury, No. 3.
What may not be so obvious is the ranking of two big cities — Hartford (No. 4) and New Haven (No. 7). But it actually makes sense, said Tom Andersen, director of communications & community outreach for Connecticut Audubon Society. (Above, a wild turkey peeking in a door in Stratford. Photo by Twan Leenders/Copyright Connecticut Audubon Society)
New Haven has big parks, there are prime turkey spots along the Merritt-Wilbur Cross Parkway and at Silver Sands State Park in Milford, he said.
“They’re around there,” Andersen said.
Part of the question also can be answered by the way the data is collected at the Audubon Society’s annual Christmas and summer bird counts, Andersen said. People usually emanate out in a 15-mile radius from the cities. So while the list says New Haven or another big city, there is a little leeway on municipal lines, he said.
Americans have had a long relationship with the turkey. The native birds were here when the Pilgrims arrived.
Benjamin Franklin was so impressed with the turkey, he wrote his daughter that he liked it better than the bald eagle as a national symbol, Andersen said.
He said it was a ‘bird of courage,’” Andersen said.
Forty years ago, it was nowhere to be found in the state.
The birds had been pushed out by overhunting and clearing of forests for pasture and farms, the society said.
The turnaround began in the 1970s, when state wildlife managers captured 22 turkeys in New York and released them in Connecticut, the society said.
As the birds bred and their numbers increased, they were moved elsewhere.
“The result is a large population, easily visible as they forage through their habitat of forests and open fields, eating acorns, seeds, invertebrates and insects,” the society said.
Wild turkey habitats are managed by the Connecticut Audubon Society at a number of its 19 sanctuaries, including the Croft in Goshen, Bafflin in Pomfret and Banks South in Fairfield, the release said.