Res­i­dents squawk about tur­key flock

Ur­ban visi­tors a scourge to some, an at­trac­tion to oth­ers

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY JEN­NIFER PELTZ

NEW YORK | Just ahead of Tur­key Day, a flock of feral tur­keys is caus­ing a flap in a city that de­fines ur­ban­ity.

A pop­u­la­tion of rov­ing tur­keys on Staten Is­land has be­come a mess-mak­ing, traf­fic-stop­ping scourge to some res­i­dents, an im­promptu nat­u­ral at­trac­tion to oth­ers and a fraught project for gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

Since dozens of the tur­keys were rounded up and killed this sum­mer, the birds’ fu­ture has be­come a topic as heated as a Thanks­giv­ing meat ther­mome­ter.

“We don’t want to kill them. We just want them to leave us alone,” said Bar­bara Laing, who watched as at least 50 tur­keys con­verged out­side her house around sun­down one re­cent evening with a cho­rus of honks — their own and those of driv­ers fu­tilely try­ing to shoo them out of traf­fic.

The tur­keys milled on the grass, flew up like car­toon ghosts into a large maple tree, and set­tled in for the night.

It’s a sight that charms on­look­ers and some­times res­i­dents, when the tur­keys aren’t foul­ing yards with drop­pings, de­vour­ing gar­dens, wak­ing up res­i­dents with rau­cous pre-dawn mat­ing ses­sions, and ut­terly dis­re­gard­ing dogs and other sup­posed de­ter­rents.

“They re­ally are a beau­ti­ful bird ... but they ru­ined our prop­erty,” said Ms. Laing’s sis­ter and next-door neigh­bor, Mary Jane Froese.

Af­ter decades of ef­fort to halt the de­cline of the sym­bol­i­cally Amer­i­can birds, the na­tion’s wild tur­key pop­u­la­tion has re­bounded from about 300,000 in the early 1950s to an es­ti­mated 7 mil­lion now.

The for­est-dwelling gob­bler has adapted to set­tings as pop­u­lated as lower Man­hat­tan, where a tur­key nick­named Zelda hangs out. They’ve been ac­cused of at­tack­ing res­i­dents in Brook­line, Mass., and men­ac­ing school­child­ren in Glen­dale, Wis.

Tur­key ten­sions have come to a big-city head on Staten Is­land, where the birds started con­gre­gat­ing at a state psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal and at­tract­ing no­tice a decade or so ago.

Now, nearly ev­ery­one on the is­land seems to have a tur­key story, not to men­tion an opin­ion.

Tur­key gripes have led to at least one ar­rest — of a res­i­dent who set off fire­works to try to dis­perse them from his block in 2007 — and schemes such as coat­ing tur­key eggs with veg­etable oil in hopes of pre­vent­ing em­bryos from de­vel­op­ing. (It didn’t work.)


Wild tur­keys gather in the yard of a home in Staten Is­land, New York. They are among a pop­u­la­tion of rov­ing tur­keys that has be­come a mess-mak­ing, traf­fic­stop­ping scourge to some res­i­dents, an un­ex­pected bit of makeshift na­ture to oth­ers and a fraught project for gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

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