Menlo Mystery: Where did the wild turkeys near downtown come from?

by Linda Hubbard on April 4, 2020

We’re hoping that there are some wild turkey experts out there who can explain where these wild turkey could have come from before setting up temporary camp near downtown Menlo Park.

Joyce D emailed:  “A couple of days ago, I turned onto Lee Drive (just off Valparaiso, near downtown), and saw some big birds rooting around the center island of the cul-de-sac. I first thought they were peacocks, which would have been really special, but they were wild turkeys, which is pretty fun as well.

“As I drove in slowly, they moved from the island to one of the house’s yard, then over to the neighbor’s house, then hopped on both roofs, and eventually hopped over the fence into the backyard of the houses on Johnson Street.

“I didn’t get great photos, but here they are exploring the corner of our cul-de-sac.

“I remember seeing wild turkeys over on the Stanford Campus when I worked there 10 years ago, but this seems a little far for them to wander. Perhaps they live at Sacred Heart?”

A quick look at the wild turkey information on Wikipedia revealed they do fly up in trees to roost at night and can fly about a quarter mile. That last fact puts the Sacred Heart campus a bit out of range as the barnyard on campus is 1/2 mile away from Lee Dr. But we guess it remains the most plausible solution to the mystery. Other thoughts?


Patrick DeOcampo April 04, 2020 at 2:43 pm

They’ve been moving in from across 280. My in-laws had a few in the yard last week By Woodside High.

T'giving came early April 04, 2020 at 3:00 pm

My mom saw them in Belmont!

Martha April 04, 2020 at 10:55 pm

They roam up and down Page Mill Road. Some live at Foothill Park. They roam further up the road almost to Highway 35.
They have been on my roof too.

TOM KNIGHT April 05, 2020 at 7:00 am

Get ready for Urban Turkeys. All across America, wild turkeys have discovered the joys of city living…no predators and lots to eat. They are very adaptable. DO NOT FEED them…take in bird feeders for songbirds for awhile…they will scrounge for scrap seed on the ground.
Yes, they can fly half mile or more up to 55mph. I know, I have lived and researched wild turkeys for 50 years.
Now is spring marking season and males will become very aggressive. They will peck at reflections in car sides. They will also challenge people. Just remember, when the toms are all fluffed up, there is really just a 20 pound bird under all those feathers.
If birds become aggressive around you…use bear repellant spray (get at local sports store), yellow jacket insect spray works great too, umbrellas open and shut in front of them will deter them, as will a knock on the head with a baseball bat, cane or expandable police baton. Don’t brake your car of them…a road kill turkey is delicious.
Hope this helps. Tom Knight

Daniel April 05, 2020 at 7:34 am

They may have come from Arastradero preserve. There have been many turkeys living there for a long time. They could cross under 280 on the cow path and go across Stanford land and the golf course without much trouble. It is not far from there to MP.

Last fall, they would often come into my yard off page mill road. They can go a long way in a day, and they can fly up into trees for sleeping. With reduced traffic, animals are getting bolder.

Jeffry Bell April 05, 2020 at 9:04 am

If they have been in the South Bay for a long time. I think they may have moved to your neighborhood due to the large influx of Canadian geese in San Jose area

Hue Simpson April 05, 2020 at 9:12 am

From around the world there have been pix of unusual animals wandering in residential places more often now. It’s attributed to less human traffic due to shelter in place. Goats in one downtown area. Remember coyotes in SF recently? So wild turkeys that are in arastradero preserve and nearby open spaces now exploring. Hope this helps.

Renata Bailey April 05, 2020 at 10:22 am

They’re called turkey vultures. I saw them when I was driving down Edgewood Rd. Kinda creepy but glad they mind their own business.

Derek April 05, 2020 at 2:40 pm

These aren’t turkey vultures, they’re wild turkeys.

Meg Abraham April 05, 2020 at 10:28 am

I read that they are not native, but were brought to Calif by an early Govenor to provide game to entertain hunting parties. Don’t know if it is true. I’m pretty sure their numbers would have been limited by the DDT issues that caused all large birds to have eggs that were to thin to stand up to mom’s sitting in them. Now their numbers are exploding. Today there are hundreds of them all over the hills, NASA Ames, and any large open space. They can be a nuisance, but they are fun to watch. Oh, and they do fly. It can be intimating when there are 50 or 60 of them at a time taking to the air

Derek April 05, 2020 at 2:42 pm

Turkeys are one of the greatest conservation success stories in American History. These birds were hunted until their numbers were almost nothing. Now every lower 48 state plus Hawaii has huntable populations of wild turkey

Thomas April 05, 2020 at 9:02 pm

There were wild turkeys some years back between the Santa Cruz and Valparaiso section of San Mateo Drive. They might just be checking their mail at the Post Office. 🙂

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