It is a fairly common experience to bump into wild turkeys almost anywhere in Celebration during the fall and early winter months. They are often seen in pursuit of their favorite food, acorns.
The abundant live oaks drop their acorns by the hundreds as they ripen. Sidewalks and lawns can be covered with them, providing the turkeys with an easy meal.
Whereas Celebration does not allow hunting of any kind, the community is somewhat of a sanctuary for them. They have become less wary of people.
While usually seen on the ground, they roost at night on the scattered pine trees around town and adjoining Reedy Creek Reserve.
By 1945 Wild Turkeys had become uncommon in Florida. Food for the table and easily hunted, it is no wonder that during the Great Depression through World War II the birds were nearly extirpated from Florida.
Reintroduced from captive breeding stock by the Florida Department of Fish and Wildlife and various conservation groups over the last several decades, they are once again common.
The American Wild Turkey population in Florida is estimated to be about 140,000 birds.
The turkeys seen in Celebration belong to a distinct subspecies named Osceola Turkey. Named after the famous leader of the Seminole people in Florida, they are sleeker and more colorful than their counterparts in other more northerly states.
In late winter, Turkeys form into flocks. This is when the male turkeys put on their dramatic tail-fanning display, strutting around the watching females and make their famous “gobble…gobble” calls to entice them. The flocks and the ritual can sometimes be observed in open grassy areas around the community.
Some of the turkeys in Celebration have become very tame and are known to look for handouts of cracked corn from people who have backyard bird feeders.
The American Wild Turkey has come to symbolize Thanksgiving, as well as becoming an icon of American wildlife.
Legend states that Ben Franklin once proposed that the wild turkey should be America’s National Emblem. The US Congress instead chose the American Bald Eagle as it symbolized Strength and Freedom.
By Chet Blazak
This article appears in the November 2019 edition of the Celebration News