Wild Turkeys – Recently Moved to Utah

Wild Turkeys - Recently Moved to Utah: Rio Grande Turkey Tom, Meleagris gallopavo, Courtesy US FWS, images.fws.gov, Robert H. Burton, Photographer
Rio Grande Turkey Tom
Meleagris gallopavo
Courtesy US FWS
Robert H. Burton, Photographer

The pilgrims had turkeys for the first Thanksgiving*, but the likelihood that turkeys roamed Utah at that time is small. Archaeologists have found turkey bones in pueblos in the south-eastern corner of the state. But, it is not known if they were domesticated or wild birds. However, like the ring-necked pheasant, and chukar partridge, more than 20,000 wild turkeys now roam Utah thanks to hunters and wildlife professionals.

Turkeys are the largest upland game bird in Utah. Toms stand 4 feet high with tails fanned. Hens stand 3 feet tall. First year birds are called Jakes and Jennies.

Three of the five sub-species of wild turkey were introduced to Utah. Eastern turkeys lived on Antelope Island from 1925 through the 1950s. The Merriam’s, from the ponderosa pine habitat of Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado were introduced in 1952. And Rio Grandes, native to cottonwood river bottoms of Texas, were introduced in 1984.

Merriam’s turkeys are blacker than the eastern turkey, with reflections of blue, bronze and purple. Tail coverts, the feathers of the lower back that cover the tail feathers, are white on a Merriam’s turkey; and buff or tan on a Rio Grande.
For protection, turkeys roost in trees, but descend to feed under or near trees during the day. Except when nesting, they prefer protection in numbers and rarely wander alone.

In winter they roost in flocks, but disperse as far as 10 miles to nest. Hens lay 10-11 eggs near brushy cover and incubate them for 28 days. They eat pine nuts, acorns, seeds, insects and green vegetation.

The main predators are hawks, golden eagles, foxes, coyotes, dogs, cats, skunks, raccoons, ravens, and magpies. Fortunately, the numbers hatched usually overcome predation losses.

Thanks this holiday goes to the National Wild Turkey Foundation and Utah DWR for our Wild Turkeys.

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.

Wild Turkeys Near Mack Park in Smithfield, UT, 22 Feb 2009
Copyright © 2009 Lyle Bingham



Wild Turkey Courtesy US FWS, Robert H. Burton, Photographer
Wild Turkeys near Mack Park, Smithfield, UT Copyright © 2009 Lyle Bingham
Voice: Linda Kervin, Bridgerland Audubon
Text: Lyle Bingham, Bridgerland Audubon

Additional Reading:

Note: Turkeys were not featured at the first thanksgiving in 1621 as they are in present meals. References to the meal included venison and wild fowl, but the likelihood that turkey was featured is questioned. Although associated with the first thanksgiving by tradition, they are believed to have become commonly associated with the thanksgiving meal around 1800. The NWTF notes this in their History of the Wild Turkey in North America: https://www.nwtf.org/resource-library/detail/history-turkey-north-america

The Pilgrim Hall at Plymouth Plantation notes two sources of information about the thanksgiving celebration. The William Bradford writings mention “Turkies” https://www.pilgrimhall.org/great_american_turkey.htm

Why a Turkey Is Called a Turkey, Robert Krulwich, Nov, 27, 2008, NPR, https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97541602

National Wild Turkey Foundation, https://www.nwtf.org/

Utah Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Foundation, https://www.utnwtf.org/

Wild Turkey Preditors, Posted by Admin, September 20, 2008, https://waterandwoods.net/2008/09/wild-turkey-predators/

Wild Turkeys, Project Wild, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Department of Natural Resources, State of Utah, https://wildlife.utah.gov/projectwild/newsletters/00fall-nc.pdf

Wild Turkey, The National Geographic Society, https://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/wild-turkey.html

Wild Turkey,Meleagris gallopavo, All About Birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Wild_Turkey.html

Eaton, Stephen W. 1992. Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: formerly: https://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/022/articles/introduction

Wild Turkey,Meleagris gallopavo, Birds of the World, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://birdsoftheworld.org/bow/species/wiltur/cur/introduction



Rio Grande:


Turkey CSI: USU Lab’s DNA Analysis Nabs Poacher, Mary-Ann Muffoletto, Utah State Today, November, 2008, https://www.usu.edu/ust/index.cfm?article=21644

Utah Lobster Étouffée

Click to view larger image Northern Crayfish Orconectes virilis. Photo Copyright 2009 Ellen Wakely
Northern Crayfish Orconectes virilis
© 2009 Ellen Wakely

Hi, I’m Holly Strand from Stokes Nature Center in beautiful Logan Canyon.

Remember this song?:

You get a line and I’ll get a pole honey
You get a line and I’ll get a pole, babe
You get a line and I’ll get a pole
And we’ll go down to the crawdad hole
Honey, baby mine

Did you know you that the “Crawdad Song” is relevant for Utahns? Not long ago, I encountered a rocky stream just teeming with crayfish.

Crawfish, crawdaddies, freshwater lobsters and mudbugs are all different names for the same little creature. Like a lobster, the crayfish has a joined head and midsection, and a segmented body. Crayfish come in assorted colors: sandy yellow, green, white, pink or dark brown. And they are usually about (3 inches) long.

Crayfish conceal themselves under rocks or logs. They are most active at night, when they feed on snails, algae, insect larvae, worms, and other delicacies.

There are about 330 different species that occur in North America. They are especially concentrated in the southern Mississippi Basin. Utah has only one native—the pilose crayfish. Its range is in northern Utah’s Bear River, Weber River and Ogden River drainages and in the Raft River Mountains drainages.

Utah also has two known invasive crayfish, The northern crayfish is a very successful and aggressive species. It was introduced and stocked in the 60’s and 70’s and is increasingly widespread. These crayfish are particularly abundant in Flaming Gorge and Glen Canyon reservoirs and in the Virgin and Duchesne drainages. The Louisiana crayfish has also found its way to Utah. This is the culinary crayfish that you ‘ve probably encountered in jambalaya and crawfish étouffée.

Nonnative crayfish infestations degrade freshwater habitats if the new crayfish outcompetes natives. Invasives also carry disease. Too many crayfish can destabilize stream banks by digging and burrowing.

In controlled quantities and locations crayfish provide wonderful food for fish, birds and people too. You can catch crayfish with
chunks of meat or fish. They are attracted to the odor.

Anyone with a valid Utah fishing or combination license may take crayfish for personal use during the open fishing season set for the given body of water. Just make sure you don’t transport any live crayfish away from the body of water where taken.

Thanks to The ToneWay Project at Toneway.com for their rendition of the crawdad song.
And to Dr. Scott Miller of the College of Natural Resources Bug Lab at Utah State University.

For Wild About Utah and Stokes Nature Center, I’m Holly Strand.


Images: © 2009 Ellen Wakely Northern Crayfish Orconectes virilis
Text:     Holly Strand, Stokes Nature Center

Sources & Additional Reading:

Johnson, J. E. 1986. Inventory of Utah Crayfish with Notes on Current Distribution. Great Basin Naturalist, 46(4):625 – 631.: https://ojs.lib.byu.edu/ojs/index.php/wnan/article/viewArticle/1907

Utah Division of Wildlife Resouces. October 01, 2009 Crayfishing for fun and for food. https://wildlife.utah.gov/fishing/crayfish.php [Accessed Nov 13,, 2009]

Songs of the Western Meadowlark and Canyon Wren

Western Meadowlark
Sturnella neglecta
Courtesy US FWS,
John & Karen Hollingsworth,
Photographers, images.fws.gov

Everyone recognizes bird-watchers by their binoculars. Bird-listening, on the other hand, takes nothing more than your ears, and attention to Nature’s sounds. Listening for bird songs, then, may require your concentration at first, but soon it will become second nature. Some common birds of Utah are more easily found and known by their song than their appearance.
The Canyon Wren is one of my favorites. Its song is unique in North America. This tiny cinnamon-brown bird weighs little more than a marshmallow, but it belts out a cascading song big enough to reverberate off the rocky cliffs and slopes that are its home. You may not see the canyon wren, but try conversing with it by whistling its song in reply. I listen year-round for its song throughout Utah and our neighboring states, particularly in mid-elevation canyons.

Bird song can help you distinguish related bird species too. On the Great Plains, both Eastern and Western Meadowlarks co-occur. The plumage of these two starling-sized species is nearly identical, but their songs differ dramatically. The eastern species sings but a few clear notes, but our western meadowlark sings a beautiful musical warble.

Canyon Wren
Catherpes mexicanus
Courtesy & Copyright © 2007,
Lou Giddings, Photographer

Meadowlarks reside here year-round, typically in grassy areas, pastures and foothills. Their backs are brown, but the male’s chest is a brilliant yellow the color of fall aspen leaves. Males are frequently seen singing atop a fence post. Hearing a meadowlark always makes me smile, they seem so cheery. And that is another reason for listening to birds, for the sheer enjoyment of their song.

In the months to come, we will bring you more of Kevin Colver’s fine bird recordings to enjoy, interpret and learn. These are music lessons that everyone can enjoy!

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.


Photos: Western meadowlark, Courtesy US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS)

Canyon Wren, Copyright © 2007 Lou Giddings, Utahbirds.org

Recordings: Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections

Text: Jim Cane, Bridgerland Audubon

Additional Reading:

Last Blank Spots on the Map

Audio:  mp3 Listen to WildAboutUtah

Today the river corridor still retains
its wild and pristine qualities.
Copyright 2009 Dan Miller from the book
The River Knows Everything

Hi, I’m Holly Strand from Stokes Nature Center in beautiful Logan Canyon.

The Green River is one of Utah’s signature waterways. It begins high in Wyoming’s Wind River Range and winds southward 730 miles to join the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park. 60% of river’s extent lies in Utah– attracting river runners, archaeologists, fishermen, hunters and hikers. And of course, geologists.

Desolation boasts steep dramatic walls.
From the top of the Tavaputs Plateau to the river
is deeper than the Grand Canyon.
Click to view larger image,
Photo Copyright 2009 Dan Miller

It’s hard to believe that less than 150 years ago, most of the Green and the Colorado canyonlands were unlined areas marked “UNEXPLORED” on maps. One such place was the area between Uinta Valley and Gunnison’s Crossing — now called Green River, UT. Another blank spot lay south of the crossing all the way to Paria which is now called Lee’s Ferry in Arizona.

To some folks, a blank spot on a map is an irresistible call to come and see what’s there. So it was with John Wesley Powell, a one-armed Civil War veteran working as a curator in a small natural history museum in Illinois. He became intrigued with exploring the canyons of the Colorado and the Green after spending some time out west collecting rock samples.

Lighthouse Rock 1871
Courtesy Arizona Historical Society

Impatient for adventure and discovery, Powell quickly assembled a crew of nine men –mostly rough and tumble mountain men used to living off the land. They set off from Green River WY and were making good time until disaster struck in the Canyon of Lodore. One of the boats hit a boulder, and a third of the food and half of the cooking gear sunk to the bottom of the river. A week later, a fire destroyed more food and gear. But eventually, five of the original nine made it all the way to the mouth of the Virgin River in Arizona.

A second expedition benefited from more funding, planning and hindsight. This time round, Powell chose a more scientifically-minded crew including a geologist, cartographer and photographer to research and document the trip. Once again they launched from Green River, WY. Powell perched in an armchair strapped to the middle bulkhead of a boat named after his wife, the Emma Dean . He read poetry to the crew as they floated along calm stretches of the river. The crew ran the Green and then started down the Colorado without any major incidents. After overwintering on the north rim, they ran the rapids of the Grand Canyon in late summer of the following year.

John Wesley Powell with Tau-gu
a Paiute, 1871-1872
Courtesy Arizona Historical Society

Upon return, surveyor Alven Thompson completed a topographic map of the region, and Powell’s monumental account was published in 1875 by the Smithsonian Institution.

The last “UNEXPLORED”s on the United States map were now replaced by specific landscape features with measured altitudes. Nowadays we still use the many evocative names that Powell and his men bestowed during their travels. Names like Flaming Gorge, Glen Canyon, Dirty Devil River, Escalante River, Cataract Canyon, and Desolation Canyon tell us something of the experiences of these brave men as they were exploring Utah’s last mysterious places.

Thanks to the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation for supporting research and development of this Wild About Utah topic.

Additional thanks to Rey Lloyd Hatt and the friendly staff of the John Wesley Powell River History Museum in Green River UT.

For Wild About Utah and Stokes Nature Center, I’m Holly Strand.

Images: Copyright Dan Miller from the book
The River Knows Everything: Desolation Canyon and the Green

Powell images: Courtesy Arizona Historical Society

Text:     Holly Strand, Stokes Nature Center

Sources & Additional Reading

Aton, James M. and Dan Miller (photographer) 2009. The River Knows Everything: Desolation Canyon and the Green. Logan: Utah State University Press.


Stegner, Wallace. “ Green River: The Gateway” in Blackstock, Alan. 2005. A Green River reader. Salt Lake City: University Utah Press.

John Wesley Powell River History Museum in Green River UT https://johnwesleypowell.com/

USGS. 1976. Geological Survey Information 74-24. John Wesley Powell: Soldier, Explorer, Scientist.
https://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/geology/publications/inf/74-24/index.htm [Accessed October 30 2009]