The Wild Turkey in San Diego County

The San Diego History

In 1993 approximately 230 wild birds that were a mix of two subspecies the Rio Grande (M. g intermedia) and the Eastern (M. g. silverstris), were released in different areas of San Diego County back country by the California Department of Fish & Game and some dedicated volunteers.




 March 2012

After their forage scouting the sites for the Youth Mentored Hunts in the Santa Ysabel Open Space (East) area, Tom L. & Paul C. had a little close up with a couple of jakes and a nice looking gobbler. Looks like it’s time to start looking about & get those landlubber legs ready for pounding the dirt.

SAN DIEGO TURKEY SURVEY – 2010    Report by John Massie – PDF


Field observation – February 8, 2010

Reported by John Massie and Photos by Doug Streed

Over all the daily count was approximated at 300 birds. The jake to hen ratio was difficult to determine due to dim sun light conditions at fly down.

Toms are now in color. The toms normally will come into color first with the jakes (mixed in with the toms) showing their colors closer to  the breeding season. The toms and were seen chasing a number of the jakes showing their dominance in the groups hierarchy. It was no wonder that jakes were “not” trying out their strutting near or around the toms nor were they gobbling. It’s no fun going up against a larger opponent armed with spurs when all you have is nubs. There was not the typical response (gobbling) to “hen” calls, like one expects during the mating season, and a number toms appeared disinterested in the calls.

A number of the hens were seen roaming together in larger groups but there were three hens observed near the Banner Store area and a single hen was seen by the Pine Hills Lodge. This observation was determined to be a normal part of the hens search for nesting areas. Approximately 10% (normal) of the hens seen were bearded.


The overall behaviors that the birds were exhibiting were ones expected in a “normal” winter time flock for this time of year. A first gobbling peak is being forecast to coincide with the scheduled California spring turkey hunting season. Our recent weather conditions (winter storms) in the San Diego County area also contribute to this forecast.


So why did the turkeys cross the road?

Field observation – January & February 2010

In the Julian area of San Diego County to observe “fly down” from a pre observed roosting site and attempt recording of the fly down sounds.  It was difficult to perform a count of the birds due to visibility (pre dawn), large number of birds, and the multiple roosting sites in the area.

Play the tape and take note of the various differences in the sounds (may need to turn up your volume) and calls the turkeys make.  Note the differences of the deeper clucks that the toms & jake’s make as opposed to the higher pitch hens. The jake’s make a distinct sounds when their in a fight. Can you identify it?

The short video “Tree Talk” was recorded while the birds were still in the roost and “Fly Down” was taken as they were flying down from their roost.  Enjoy and practice mimicking some of the calls with your mouth calls.  The videos are hard to make out due to the pre dawn light and I was unable to get close enough to film their silhouettes in the sky line.


The Boys of Dawn

After fly down we travel three to four miles and observed three other gangs of birds that numbered in the twenties. These gangs were composed primarily of hens and jennies with a number of the hens sporting beards.


The Bearded Lady

Field observation

Purpose: Evaluating Wild Turkey Reproduction

Reported by John Massie

“I saw a total of 70 turkeys yesterday in the Ranchita, and Wynola Estates area near the Inaja Memorial. For the first time the gobblers are showing up in bigger numbers. These had some hens mixed in with them as well. Most of the poults are way too big to distinguish from their mothers so we can start looking for small beards on the jakes pretty soon. We should be able to get some hen/gobbler ratios by Christmas”.






August 26, 2009

Field observation – Purpose: Evaluating Wild Turkey Reproduction

1. Observations conducted via one auto – Minor hiking

2. Approximate trip time frame of 4 hours

3. Use of only public “open” roads – Four wheel drive not mandatory

4. Four persons participating

5. Areas of Ramona, Julian, Santa Ysabel and Ranchita

Birds Observed

1. Total of 56 counted

2. Ten birds determined as hens – Weights approximated at 10-12 pounds

3. All other birds were determined to be poults of undetermined sex – Weights approximated at 8-9 pounds for the larger poults and younger birds 2-3 pounds less

4. Birds in open fields of grass foraging for insects (grasshoppers)

5. No gobblers were observed

Early August 2009 – Just Watch Them Grow!


These birds were spotted on “My Country Club” 8/2009


Here a few little tracking signs




Ya, tracking is fun. If you’re finding what looks like bowls in the dirt (that’s what appears  when they scratch away the surface material looking for food) you’re getting close. Yup, tracking is fun as long as you’re not stepping in it!

This is the typical shape of a hen’s dropping, “like a small ice cream cone”  8/2009

July 2009 Great time of the Year to get out and see the Future.


This picture was taken July 24, 2009, near Julian. The average brood size, counting 14 broods, totaling 47 poults, this comes to 3.3 poults per brood. This is about average for San Diego County in a good year. Some three poult broods were very much younger, indicating a good reproduction in re-nesting hens.

Photo and information by John Massie – DFG Biologist (Ret)