Turkeys in Winter – What They Eat and Where They Live


Have you ever wondered how a non-migratory bird like the turkey adapts to winter? You see, a lot of wild birds fly “south” for the winter, not the turkey though. While he may stay out of higher elevations when winter comes, the turkey is not a migratory bird. This means that they have to adapt to cold and snow. So what do turkeys eat in winter and where do they live? Let’s have a look at that question.

What Turkeys Eat In Winter

If you have read my article on what turkeys eat, you know that in the wild they can sustain themselves on greens, berries and nuts. They will also eat small vertebrates.

So how does their diet change in the winter?

During winter wild turkeys eat:

  • Acorns
  • Crabapples
  • Plants
  • Berries
  • Hazelnuts

Where Turkeys Live During Winter

Turkeys don’t have thick fur so it is only natural to wonder how they make it through winter. A big key to that is fat. During spring, summer and fall, they build up a supply of fat by foraging on naturally occurring fruits, nuts, berries and plants.

In fact, according to a paper put out by the Wisconsin government, turkeys can loose up to forty percent of their body weight before starvation becomes a concern.

Turkey’s aren’t migratory. Instead, they have adapted to life in the wild including mechanisms to survive snowy conditions when present. In fact, wild turkeys live in very cold areas such as Wisconsin and New York.

Turkeys will roost out of the snow whenever possible. During severe storms, they will stay in the trees, sheltering themselves from the weather as much as possible.

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Once the weather has calmed, they will continue to forage and browse for whatever foods they can find.

Where Wild Turkeys Sleep

Wild turkeys sleep in the branches of trees at night. This behavior is called roosting and helps protect them at night from ground dwelling predators such as coyotes.

Each night, as the sun starts to set, turkeys will naturally seek out a tree to spend the night. Typically they move around during the day foraging for food so they may choose a different tree each night, depending on where they are when evening comes.

Once they have found the perfect spot to roost, this is one of the few times a wild turkey will use its wings to fly. While they don’t normally fly long distances, they can get high enough to find a nice branch to settle on for the evening.

How to Encourage Turkeys To Stick Around During Winter

Humans should not interfere with nature’s processes, especially during winter. That means not only should you not feed wild animals, you should especially not feed them during winter.

Feeding wild animals during winter causes them to become reliant on you for food. It alters their natural behaviors. Keep in mind that the process of foraging for foods helps more than just the turkeys.

In fact, in some areas feeding wildlife is actually illegal. Even if your intention isn’t feeding to hunt, you could still find your self in trouble.

There are, however, other ways you can encourage turkeys to stick around during winter. Some ideas include:

  • Instead of clear cutting, leave some areas with trees and shrubs that can provide shelter for turkeys during winter.
  • Plant native fruit and nut trees on your property.
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Baiting and Feeding Regulations by State

Sometimes the regulations surrounding baiting and feeding of wild animals, including turkeys, can be hard to find.

Remember, even if you are not a hunter, feeding laws do apply to you. Here are some links to information I was able to find on the topic organized by state.

  • Iowa
  • Michigan
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin

Frequently Asked Questions


  • https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/documents/turkfeed.pdf
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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>