Herbdoc has some good news. I love good news.
The Eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallapavo silvestris) was near extinction in the early 1900’s due to over hunting and loss of habitat. In Rhode Island, The Department of Environmental Management’s restoration effort started in 1980, and the population swelled to an estimated 4900 in 2009.
For the past ten years we have seen increasing numbers on our wooded property. The first flock consisted of a dozen adult birds, but last winter we counted 72 visitors! It wasn’t until last summer that we spotted the poults, or young turkeys, accompanied by three hens. The hens apparently teach their young to be very quiet since they would otherwise become dinner for predators. This year we have nineteen poults with four hens. They are particularly fond of my herb garden where they snack on insects, green plants and fruit.
They are such a delight to watch, and a real benefit of having them visit has been a rapid decline in the number of ticks. An adult turkey can eat up to 200 ticks a day with the result that our woods have been tick free for the past several years.
The second successful restoration project has involved the osprey (Pandion haliaetus), a magnificent raptor with a 3 foot wing span that feeds on live fish.
The osprey population was decimated during the years between 1950 and 1975 due to the effects of the pesticide DDT which worked its way up the food chain to the birds. It caused a thinning of eggshells and poisoning of embryos; very few eggs hatched. The ban on DDT in 1972 and the construction of special platforms to provide nesting sites contributed to the osprey’s remarkable comeback.
This photo was taken at the Salt Pond in South Kingstown, RI. The nestlings were peering across the road at their parents, either awaiting dinner or being urged to take the plunge for their first flight!