Wild turkeys gobble up real estate in Ottawa’s conservation area

Visitors to part of the Britannia Conservation Area west of downtown Ottawa recently saw birds of a different feather.

People have reported spotting — and in some cases encountering — wild turkeys near Mud Lake.

Chris Myles, senior conservation officer with the National Capital Commission (NCC), said that’s actually normal at this time of year.

It’s breeding season, and that means turkeys, especially males, may behave in ways they wouldn’t the rest of the year, Myles explained.

They can become extremely territorial, sometimes aggressive.—Chris Myles, NCC

“They’re basically polygamous, so they’ll mate with as many females as possible. It’s just in their nature,” Myles said.

“They can get extremely territorial, sometimes aggressive, sometimes confrontational. Usually with other turkeys, but sometimes they get confused.”

Part of the reason turkeys get confused is that they’re getting more used to having humans around, which also means they’re not as easily startled as they used to be.

“We’re dealing with birds from Mud Lake that are used to a degree of urbanization, so they’re going to display potentially different behaviors than what we might consider the norm for a turkey,” Myles said.

“They get used to people and they get used to loud noises, which would usually scare most birds away.”

Birds spotted elsewhere

Myles said turkeys have also been sighted in more urban areas of Ottawa in recent years.

“We have heard whispers and things of that nature happening in the Barrhaven area around the farm fields.”

But he said one of the reasons turkeys seem to love Mud Lake so much is because people feed some of the animals that call the park home.

“A photographer wants a really good shot, so he’ll drop seeds or whatever on a stump or an ideal area to take a good shot, but it’s not just songbirds and migrating birds that eat these things” , did he declare. .

“Turkeys are extremely… omnivorous. They eat more or less and birdseed is one of their… favorites. [treats].”

Chris Myles, senior conservation officer with the National Capital Commission, which manages Mud Lake, says male turkeys can become territorial during mating season. (Radio Canada)

There have been calls to do something about the turkeys at Mud Lake, but Myles said there’s not much to do.

“Relocation is often not a very good option simply because these turkeys travel up to four kilometers a day in search of food on the ground. That’s without flying,” he said.

Myles said the only thing to do is let the public know the birds are there.

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