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Thanksgiving Success Story: Forgotten Wild Turkeys in Illinois Spread Across Chicago Area

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Last winter, residents of Winthrop Harbor, a northern suburb, went online to track seven wild turkeys, dubbed the “Magnificent Seven.” Birds roamed the neighborhood gardens and roosted in nearby oak trees. Locals shared photos on Facebook and marveled at the bird’s beauty.

If the birds return this year, officials will put a “turkey chase” on the village’s website to let people know where to find the animals.

According to watchers, turkeys can be found throughout the Chicago area, including McCormick Place and the South Side of Beverly, Evanston, South Holland, Bull Valley and along the Fox River.

The resurrection of this bird is a conservation success story. Wild turkeys were once plentiful in Illinois, but by the early 1900s hunting had been forgotten. State and private conservation groups reintroduced them in the mid-20th century and have grown to steady numbers. 5 million nationwidedespite recent declines.

This Thanksgiving, many Americans eat fat white flightless domesticated turkeys, while their brown-feathered wild cousins ​​roam outside, chomping and showing off their tails.

Turkeys occupy a rather unique niche in the bird world. They are one of the largest birds in North America, with males growing up to four feet long and sticking out here for the winter, unlike migratory birds.

They can fly in short bursts of up to 50 miles per hour and can run close to 20 miles per hour. They eat oak, hickory, and other nuts, farm grains, plants, and insects.

Adult males are called gobblers or toms, females are called chickens, and chicks are known as chicks. A group of turkeys can be called a crop, a posse, or a flock. The bird usually has black and bronze plumage with white spots, a blue head, a red cap and a throat wattle.

Turkeys don’t just devour, according to Bird Watching Daily.com — They make all sorts of sounds, including flying calls, chirping, and purring. The National Wild Turkey Federation holds annual competitions to protect and keep animals for hunting.

All 102 counties in Illinois have turkey archery hunting seasons in the fall. every year, hunter’s harvest State reports say someone got it in Cook County last season.

Our Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, didn’t want the turkey to be the pinnacle of the world. national emblembut he praised the virtues of the turkey as being “more admirable” than the eagle, “a true native of America” ​​and “a bird of courage”.

There are six subspecies of turkey, and the Illinois one is usually the eastern turkey.

The turkeys have been spotted at the Sand Ridge Nature Center in South Holland, and they love clearing forests, said Nina Baki, public affairs and program manager for the Cook County Forest Reserve.

The nature center also has captive turkeys imprinted on humans. But they are rarely seen in the wild, she said.

In McHenry County’s Bull Valley, where turkeys are common, Bull Valley Police Chief Tracy Dickens said turkeys aren’t so shy.

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“They kind of rule the roads here,” he said. “I’ve learned to give in to them. My air horn only upsets them and they give me a ‘we’re not moving’ face.” Most people understand that they move at their own pace. ”

In Beverly, Amy Kasky named her gift shop Turkey after a series of sightings of a bird named Lucky in her neighborhood several years ago. She said the word turkey connotes abundance and community.

“This turkey keeps popping up when things get wild in our lives,” she said. It’s very good.”

Not everyone loves wild turkeys. In Toms River, New Jersey, a “gang” of birds is “terrorizing” residents by blocking roads, poking roofs and cars, according to television reports.

According to Judy Pollock, president of the Audubon Society of Chicago, turkeys remain so rare that birders get excited when they see them.

“For such a big and heavy bird, they fly surprisingly well,” she said. “We are happy to see them because they always surprise us when they show up.”

rmccoppin@chicagoribune.com

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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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