By Ned MacKay
Since Thanksgiving is next week, it’s time again for my annual regional park turkey talk.
You’ve undoubtedly seen the birds all over the place, in open space and in residential neighborhoods. Turkeys were native to California about 10,000 years ago, but the line died out. Those we see in the wild today are descendants of birds that were re-introduced to the state many years ago for hunting purposes.
There still is a turkey-hunting season in California, but no hunting of any kind is allowed in the East Bay Regional Parks.
Oak woodlands are wild turkeys’ preferred habitat. The birds are ground nesters, but they can fly up into trees to avoid predators. They eat seeds, bugs, berries, acorns in the fall and clover in the spring.
Turkeys are prey for mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and raptors such as golden eagles.
Adult turkeys are big birds, 15 to 20 pounds. Their powerful chest muscles enable explosive 55-mile-per-hour flight, and their strong legs can get them 18 miles per hour on the ground.
If you do see turkeys in the regional parks, please don’t approach them. Just enjoy watching them from a distance. And please don’t try to feed them either. The birds are better off on a natural diet.
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There is an “Almost Turkey Day Hike” from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17 at the Tilden Nature Area in Berkeley, led by naturalist “Trail Gail” Broesder. It’s a seven-miler, shorter if the ground is muddy, but intended for ages 10 and older. Bring a snack to share. You might even see some wild turkeys.
The hike is free of charge. Meet at the Environmental Education Center, which is located at the north end of Tilden’s Central Park Drive. For information, call 510-544-2233.
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The Over-the-Hills Gang, an informal group of hikers 55 and older who enjoy exercise and natural history, will explore Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve in a hike from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 20. Leader is Dave Zuckermann, supervising naturalist at Tilden Nature Area.
The hike is free of charge. Meet at Sibley’s entrance, which is on Skyline Boulevard a short distance south of the intersection with Grizzly Peak Boulevard in the Oakland hills. For information, call 510-544-2233.
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The unique and colorful history of Crown Beach in Alameda will come to life in a program from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Nov. 17, led by naturalist Michael Charnofsky. It’s at the Crab Cove Visitor Center, 1252 McKay Ave.
He will talk about the beach’s eras as a marshland, a raucous amusement park (“the Coney Island of the West”), a military base, and the first estuary marine reserve in California. Free of charge, the program is for ages eight and up.
For more information call the visitor center at 510-544-3187.