About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Do turkeys eat ticks or carry ticks?

Hello, I would really appreciate some information regarding wild turkeys gobbling up ticks!!!!  I have heard two stories on the subject. One being that they do indulge in eating ticks, which is very helpful here on the Cape, the other is that they bring ticks to an area which we do not need!!!!  Could you please help settle this controversy for us???? Thank you for your time.... Cape Cod, Ma

It is believed widely that if you have a large turkey flock roaming your property regularly, there are probably fewer ticks than there would be otherwise. But Louis A. Magnarelli, the entomologist and director of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station says that “there are normal seasonal and annual variations in populations of ticks that are caused by many factors.'' He explained “In my opinion, it would be a stretch to say that turkeys are controlling ticks or are responsible for low populations of ticks.''

The Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) does have a taste for small, crawling things like ticks (especially young turkeys, who love the tiny, eight−legged vampires). They are superb foragers. Some biologists feel a turkey's eyesight may be three times better than ours, so finding ticks amongst the shrubbery is a piece of cake. It’s not unusual to see groups of 25 turkeys in the summer gobbling ticks as well as various seeds, berries, roots, grasses and other insects.

But does their foraging reduce the local density of adult ticks? Perhaps a little bit. According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, turkeys eat up to 200 ticks per day. I don’t have turkeys in my yard but I do have lots of birds and I think it does help reduce the number of bugs in my area.

However, as you mentioned, turkeys can also be a host for ticks. But they are not a preferred host and it's not likely that wild turkeys in the area will lead to an increased abundance of the black-legged (deer) ticks, or increased risk of human Lyme disease.

Right now the general consensus in the scientific world is that wild turkeys are unlikely to host ticks, and that turkey foraging is unlikely to reduce the local density of ticks.

Sources:

Related Articles:
·         Wild Turkeys came close to extinction in the 1930s http://bit.ly/JzyxeM
·         Turkey Trivia: Fun Facts about the American bird http://bit.ly/J1AIpH
·         Will a turkey drown if he looks up in the rain? http://bit.ly/rWtgr5
·         Why is a Turkey Is Called a Turkey? http://bit.ly/uKNZe5
·         What do Turkeys Eat? http://bit.ly/uUiDsN

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