Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Don't Pass Up Wild Turkeys Island Birds Worth the Trip

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Don't Pass Up Wild Turkeys Island Birds Worth the Trip

Article excerpt

CUMBERLAND ISLAND, Ga. -- Unlike their cousins on the mainland, the wild turkeys on Georgia's largest barrier island won't be found on anyone's dinner table during the holiday season -- or any other time for that matter.

The reason? The wild turkeys on Cumberland Island are protected by the National Park Service.

That protected status has allowed the birds to thrive at the national seashore, giving island visitors a rare glimpse into how turkeys interact in the wild, park superintendent Denis Davis said.

"People are excited when they see the deer and turkeys both," Davis said. "It's a major attraction here."

It's also unusual for wild turkeys not to go into hiding whenever they are approached by humans, said Bryan Burhanf, a biologist with the National Wild Turkey Federation.

The 215,000-member organization is dedicated to the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of the turkey-hunting tradition, said C.J. Davis, a spokesman for the National Wild Turkey Federation and no relation to Denis Davis.

Burhanf said turkeys are usually "skittish" around humans. But if the birds aren't hunted or harassed, they won't go into hiding as people approach, he added.

At Cumberland, the birds have open courtship displays, where the adult males strut and gobble as they show their tail feathers to females during the springtime breeding season.

But the birds can be seen throughout the year foraging for food or interacting in groups.

Turkeys are scattered throughout the 17.5-mile-long island, with the largest numbers at the south end where the bulk of visitors come, said Jennifer Bjork, a biologist with the Park Service.

"For people who see them, it's exciting," Bjork said. "It's fun to watch them."

Bjork said turkeys at the south end of the island are tamer than the birds at the northern part because of more interaction with people.

The best time to see turkeys is early morning or early evening in the olive groves near Dungeness mansion, but they can be seen throughout the day on the island, Bjork said. …

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