Tick eating Machines

Tick eating machine

I’m starting to feel more kindly toward the turkeys in the field since I’ve discovered they are tick eating machines. Each wild turkey eats up to 200 ticks per day. This evening, when I fed, there were eight adult turkeys in Freedom’s field. That’s 1,600 ticks per day, 11,2000 ticks per week and 48,000 ticks a month. I can’t wait until we have a field full of chicks eating their share. I don’t even mind that I see them eating the spilled grain by the horses’ feed buckets. Anything that eats ticks is fine by me.

Freedom’s flock of turkeys is expanding. Tonight they numbered eight.

Certainly, I’ve never seen more wild turkeys. They are everywhere — taking over people’s yards, stopping traffic on Route 2. The funny thing is that the turkey takeover of New England is fairly recent. According to Audobon, turkeys were thin on the ground 50 years ago and had been for more than a century. The current resurgence in population is due to a concerted conservation effort, releasing trapped turkeys in new territories.

Massachusetts captured 37 Wild Turkeys from New York’s Adirondacks in the 1970s and released them in the Berkshires. Vermont relocated 31 New York turkeys in the mid-1960s, and Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire participated in similar programs. By that time, the New England human population had migrated and condensed into cities, and forests and food had returned to much of the abandoned farmlands. Turkey predators like cougars and wolves had been extirpated, and the entire region created hunting restrictions to protect the birds. All the while, trapping and relocation continued between and within states—and soon New England’s Wild Turkeys, once considered extinct, were resurgent.


Today, there are more than 25,000 wild turkeys in Massachusetts, 45,000 in Vermont, 40,000 in New Hampshire and 60,000 in Maine, all descendants of those relocated birds. With so many turkeys on the job, I can only wonder why there are still so many ticks left.

6 thoughts on “Tick eating Machines

  1. That’s good news, I guess I should have known that, being a birder and a biologist. Turkeys..the wild ones, at least, are pretty smart. The ones that have been bred for your Thanksgiving Day table are stupid, they’ve had all the brains bred out of them.
    As for why there are so many ticks left, well they do reproduce in the thousands. There are other species of birds that kept their numbers down, but with climate change, loss of habitat, competition from invasive species such as starlings and house sparrows, their numbers are declining, no, I should say plummeting. It’s encouraging that the turkeys aren’t included in that.

    1. I like the turkeys a whole lot more now that I know they are eating the ticks. And Freedom is getting used to them, too. If I could import a few dozen more, I’d happily do so. The ticks have been so horrible the past few years, it’s insane.

  2. And you with Lyme disease, I can surely understand that. Ticks are dangerous. Any time I’m out in the woods or grasslands! I do a tick check afterwards. One thing I learned a long time ago…the damned things are waterproof. My husband spent some time in Florida a while ago, and noticed dozens of little ‘things’ on the slow waters of the St. John’s river/Lake George. He’s a photographer, after all. He scooped up a handful…and they were TICKS. Alive and kicking, probably heading for the ducks that were in the vicinity. They have excellent ‘heat receptors’…not so much a sense of smell as a way of identifying a hot blooded creature such as a mammal or a bird.

    1. That’s nuts. I’ve never seen that many ticks in a single location. I’ve been treated for Lyme twice and my husband once. Freedom also has been treated twice. Huge amount of doxy required for a horse

  3. Although, in further research, I discovered this: well, it won’t paste, so look up a wordpress blog named About Eating, author is rheikenfeld. The post is titled “Lone Star Tick: Another Tick to Watch out for” and it specifically states that the Lone Star Tick is also called the “Turkey tick” as it prefers turkeys as its host. Damn it….

    Just to help out a little: the best tool to remove a tick is called a “tick remover” . It’s built by the company that makes all the camping stuff that you see in Walmarts, etc. It’s a yellow barreled pincher like tool. YOu grasp the tick’s back end with the pincers and…this is MUCHO IMPORTANTE…twist in the direction embossed on the side of the barrel. North American ticks have jaws that twist in one direction…can’t remember which and sad to say, I don’t have the tool in front of me..but you must ‘unscrew’ the tick, turning it in a direction opposite from the twist of the jaws. If you turn the wrong way, the jaws break off IN YOU, and you have to get them removed by someone with medical credentials, because then you need a blood test to see if you’ve been infected with any of the nasty diseases they carry.

    European ticks have jaws that twist in the opposite direction. I know this as I was bitten by a tick I picked up in a German forest…and had found only after TWO showers, as it was so very well hidden, and when I tried to remove it, broke the jaws off. That’s when I had to go get them removed by a nurse, because the tick was WAY up in a very personal part of my body, the parts that are normally seen only seen by OB-GYNs…

    Arrrgh I hate ticks.

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