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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.

turkey snow

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.

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.
turkey snow standing

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do turkeys do after it rains?

If it rains at night, turkeys may take a little longer to come down from their roost. Once they do, they will forage for food. Depending on the time of year, a fresh rain may yield a variety of bugs and worms much to the turkeys delight.

Where do turkeys sleep at night?

Turkeys typically find a tree to roost in each night. This helps protect them from ground dwelling predators.

Where do turkeys go during the day?

During daylight hours wild turkeys travel in search of food. They look for things to eat like fruits, nuts, berries and even small animals like mice.



Constancas Heart

Wednesday 23rd of November 2022

I always sing the National Anthem to my huge male turkey who sits 5 feet away peacefully as I sing...Then he will perch high up in my favorite tree ..I LOVE THIS BEAUTIFUL BIRD.,NO HUNTING HERE

Susan D

Saturday 4th of February 2023

@Constancas Heart, We have a beautiful lady turkey (we named her Gretta) she just started coming around late summer of 2022. She's usually by herself, steps onto our deck and pokes her head @ the sliding glass doors. We haven't seen her in this frigid cold though, I sure hope she's staying warm.

SD - Wakefield MA

James Epperly

Wednesday 9th of February 2022

The area I live in has two neighborhood turkeys each night they roost in a large tree about 20 to 25 feet off the ground on the branches,most nights they are there. occasionally they go someplace else but that is rare. many people feed them, cereal,birdseed,popcorn;so they they hang around the neighborhood. They have been in this neighborhood for approximately five years.