- Associated Press - Sunday, January 3, 2016

MERIDEN, Conn. (AP) - A roving flock of wild turkeys is attracting some attention from city residents. The six fowl have been spotted on the east side of town, crossing busy intersections and meandering around near Broad and East Main streets.

The turkeys have been spotted on Miles Place and Collins Parkway. Paul Scollan, an East Main Street resident, said he’s seen them for the past couple weeks.

“I’ve seen turkeys here and there before, but never this many at once,” he said. The sight prompted Scollan to pen a poem about the group, titled “Six Wild Turkeys.”

“The local buzz was, six wild turkeys/ took over our town the week before Christmas/ and what a brazen, swaggering gang of six/ strutting out puffed-out breast and tufted tails/ over local lawns and streets as they darn/ well pleased,” the poem begins.

“Over local lawns and streets” indeed. Scollan said he was driving down East Main Street last weekend when he saw the flock crossing the busy thoroughfare. What is it they say about the turkey crossing the road?

“Everyone was in a rush, it was one of the busiest Christmas shopping weekends of the year, and these guys couldn’t care less,” he said of the turkeys. Motorists were either frustrated or entertained by the delay, Scollan said. Some “were honking their horns and some people pulled over to take a picture.”

Nancy Rosado, a kindergarten teacher at MidState Christian Academy on Charles Place, pulled over to snag a photo on another occasion.

Rosado said she was taking a different route home from the school than she usually does and spotted the turkeys on Parker Avenue.

“There was a bunch of them; we pulled over just to take a picture,” Rosado said, referencing her son who was in the car as well. Rosado said it’s the first time she’s seen such a group of turkeys.

That might not always have been the case for state residents.

Wild turkeys were abundant in Connecticut when the first settlers arrived here, according to information from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Then, a combination of forest clearing and a series of severe winters eliminated the turkey from the state by the early 1800s.

In 1975, spurred by conservationists who wanted to bring the native species back, Connecticut received 22 turkeys from New York and released them in the northwest portion of the state, said Michael Gregonis, a wildlife biologist with DEEP.

“With those birds, the population grew and expanded to the point where we were trapping turkeys and bringing them to other parts of the state,” Gregonis said. To date, turkeys have been documented in all 169 cities and towns in the state, he said.

The specific species that exists in the state also can be found from southern Maine to northern Florida and as far west as eastern Texas, according to DEEP information.

Scollan’s theory is that the turkeys roost in East Cemetery at night. The cemetery is located off Miles Place.

Gregonis offered a couple reasons why the birds might frequent an otherwise busy, relatively urban area.

“It probably stems from somebody feeding them,” he said. The practice can become a problem, however.

“There’s no need to feed these birds, they do quite well for themselves without any supplemental feeding,” Gregonis said.

Not only does feeding them lead to their habituation to people, it can also lead to the more rapid spread of disease among the birds because of their close feeding quarters.

Gregonis advises those who see the birds not to feed them.

“Your best bet is to leave them alone,” he said.

He added that turkeys have been spotted more frequently across the state this year because of an abundance of acorns, one of their nutritional staples.

This could also be a reason they’re staying close to the East Main Street, Parker Avenue area.

“If there are oak trees right along the road and cars come along and break up the acorns, it would be easier for the turkeys to come along and pick up the pieces. That might explain why you’re seeing them there,” Gregonis said. They are also a species that’s known to be found together.

“They like to be in flocks; they’re very gregarious birds,” he said.

Scollan said he doesn’t mind seeing them around the neighborhood.

“They’re like neighbors now,” he said.

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Information from: Record-Journal, https://www.record-journal.com

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