Rare wild turkey sightings along lakefront come to a tragic end

The bird was found dead Friday near McCormick Place. Authorities say it was attacked by a coyote or a dog.

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A wild turkey stands in the way of an approaching traffic on Buffalo Road in West Des Moines, Iowa, on Friday, March 25, 2022.

A turkey seen along the lakefront was found dead Friday near McCormick Place.

AP file

A series of rare and exciting turkey sightings along the lakefront this week came to a sad end Friday when the bird was found dead near McCormick Place.

A bird watcher alerted researchers from the Field Museum’s bird division, who recovered the carcass about 10 a.m. Friday.

“It’s missing its neck and head, which makes us think it was killed by a coyote, but we don’t know for sure. It could have been a dog,” said Dave Willard, who is retired from his Field Museum job devoted to birds but still volunteers at his old office.

“Wild turkeys are mostly found in forest areas in the countryside, almost never at the lakefront,” said Willard, who saw the bird earlier this week.

“I was walking on the lakefront in the little park area north of McCormick Place looking for brown creepers and things like that and was suddenly startled by a turkey there,” he said. “A huge bird like that takes you by surprise.”

Where it came from, Willard doesn’t know.

“Turkeys can fly, so it doesn’t need to necessarily walk across the Dan Ryan to get here. You don’t see them fly very far, but they do roost up in trees,” he said.

Wild turkeys are not migratory, he said.

The lakefront sighting is not something he would have imagined some years ago.

“Wild turkeys were in very minimal numbers at one point, and the state’s Department of Natural Resources began reestablishing populations in Illinois and Wisconsin, and finally those measures took, and now they’re pretty common in the countryside. But when I was a kid, that was never true,” Willard said.

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