On May 23, Glen Park Association president Scott Stawicki was walking his dog on Amber Street near the top of Glen Canyon Park when he encountered something he’d never expected to see in San Francisco — a wild turkey.
“We saw it walking from the canyon, then right down the middle of Amber where it crosses Turquoise,” Stawicki emailed the Glen Park News.
“We assumed it was a hen or a juvenile that was separated from its flock. It proceeded by us and up the hill to the Police Academy.”
Wildlife has been returning to San Francisco for years now. First bald eagles, then coyotes, then peregrine falcons.
Now turkeys, though at least one of them has been making her abode here for at least a year, according to footage from a doorway Ring camera from March 27, 2019.
“A wild turkey walked up to our front door on Mangels Ave. It’s captured on my RING,” said Jimmy Tieu, sharing the video of the encounter.
See the video here.
The hen walked up on Tieu’s porch, glanced around a bit, then back down to the sidewalk where she looked right and then left before heading off down the sidewalk.
Recently, this well-traveled hen appears to enjoy getting out and about and has been spotted all over the neighborhood.
She was sighted pecking along a Glen Canyon Park trail north of Silver Tree Day Camp on May 28.
“I took several photographs of it, and while I did a woman told me she’d seen the same turkey on the Greenway and in the village,” emailed Mary Szczepanik, who lives on Chenery Street. “After three minutes it disappeared into the shrubbery along the creek.”
As arresting a sight as a turkey strutting down the street might be, they can become a nuisance, particularly in urban settings. Recently the San Francisco Chronicle reported on an Oakland rogue tom turkey “pecking, clawing and stealing food,” even physically assaulting a woman with its talons.
In Terra Linda near San Rafael, a resident shared with the Glen Park News a home video that captured gobblers wobbling up her steep suburban street.
“Our Marin County turkeys are much less hostile than those in Oakland,” the suburban woman emailed. “They’re the laid-back variety; they just strut and poop!”
Though the Glen Park hen has been around for at least a year, she appears to be the only sighting within historic memory.
I’ve lived in my house for 57 years,” Richard Craib told the Glen Park News, “and I’ve seen my share of critters, but never a turkey.”
Craib’s Turquoise Way house abuts the higher reaches of Glen Canyon and for over a half a century he’s experienced urban wildlife. Coyotes, skunks, racoons, even a family of White-breasted nuthatches that two years ago burrowed into his living room Douglas fir ceiling beams.
“I’ve heard lots of owl hoots” but no turkeys, said Craib, who has built and placed barn owl houses along trails in the Glen Canyon.
Evelyn Rose, who lives down the hill from Craib on Mizpah Street and who is Director of the Glen Park Neighborhood History Project, says local turkey encounters are few and far between.
“I’ve done some research and other than the limited sightings in 2017 and possibly in 2010 in Glen Canyon,” she emailed the Glen Park News on May 29, “I can’t find any mention of turkeys having been seen before.”
Whether we’ll next have flocks of turkeys isn’t known, but Stawicki says they can be lovely.
“We see wild turkey all the time in Marin and they’re quite beautiful,” he said of San Geronimo males, which court harems of hens by strutting, puffing into colorful and feathery balls, spreading their tails and dragging their wings.
Glen Canyon is ideal habitat for such reproductive rituals. Its California oaks offer sustenance, and turkeys have been known to roost high up in oak limbs where their garrulous gobbling can stir even the most somnolent slumber.
Wild Turkeys are found in 49 states, so why would it be a surprise if the birds, which can live from three to five years, colonize Glen Park, Diamond Heights and the Sunnyside? If acorns run out, they can feast upon two nearby canyon blackberry varieties – Californian and Himalayan. Or supplement their fruity diet with snails and beetles, even lizards, snakes and small frogs.
Again, it’s left to historian Rose to offer a bit of historical perspective — turkeys aren’t native to California.
They were first introduced by the Fish and Game Commission in 1912 by way of Livermore for the purpose of hunting but didn’t do well, she said.
“Subsequently, the Department of Fish and Game introduced a heartier turkey that hailed from Texas,” she continued. “These birds are seen today in the wilds, suburbia and urban settings.”
Turkeys are popular game, second after deer. But it’s illegal to unload a round of live ammunition in San Francisco so any that find their way here are safe.
Wild turkeys once numbered 10,000,000 nationally during the 17th century but became almost extinct by the early 20th century. They’ve since been reintroduced and have proliferated. Estimates vary. But it’s thought that between 1966 and 2014 there are 7.8 million wild turkeys in the United States.
But please don’t feed this hen should you run across her.
Turkeys attracted to backyard dog and cat food are one reason for their and annoying flock size in suburban areas. Some neighborhoods, like Terra Linda, can be overwhelmed by them, resulting in damage to its suburban shingles, fences and decks.
Scott Gardner, a California Department of Fish and Game official, is unambiguously clear.
“If we feed turkeys they become like stray cats.”