The Truth About Turkeys

The Truth About Turkeys

It has been rumored that Ben Franklin proposed the turkey as the national bird and symbol of our nation. Whether this is true or not, there is evidence that Franklin thought highly of this holiday bird. In a letter to his daughter, Franklin called the turkey a “respectable bird…though a little vain & silly, [he is] a bird of courage and would not hesitate to attack.”

In California, wild turkeys have started to become more common sightings in our communities. Some Californians may enjoy watching wildlife, but others find them to be quite the nuisance. Wild turkeys foraging for food in residential areas can destroy landscapes and gardens, leave their droppings on sidewalks and patios, and have been known to roost on cars, scratching the paint. During breeding season in spring, turkeys can be particularly aggressive, charging and attacking people.

What can you do if you see a wild turkey in your neighborhood? 

  • Do not feed the turkeys. Many people don't know this, but it is actually illegal in California to feed wildlife according to this section of the California Code of Regulations.
  • Remove bird feeders that might be attracting them.
  • Install motion-detecting sprinklers to deter turkeys from foraging in your yard.
  • Open an umbrella or wave a walking stick in front of you if confronted by an aggressive or persistent wild turkey.
  • Proceed slowly when driving if you encounter a wild turkey in the roadway.

If you are thinking of catching one of these birds for your Thanksgiving table, keep in mind that wild turkeys are considered a game species and require a hunting license from California Department Fish and Wildlife for depredation.

For more information about wild turkeys in California, visit