In this new blog series we call “SPOTTED,” we highlight the multitude of wildlife that inhabit our historic Santa Margarita Ranch—and that are often spotted on our tours!

In the words of our staff naturalist Bailey Christenson, “The ranch has a variety of flora and fauna which make the property an excited destination to explore for those who love wildlife and nature. The diverse landscape is home to many animals that all play an important role in the ecology of our land.”

We start with wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo), which are often seen foraging through the vineyard or wandering through the annual grasslands and mixed pine-oak woodlands of the ranch.

Wild turkeys were reportedly first introduced to California in 1877. Wild turkeys are highly social flocking birds. Male Turkeys are referred to as toms or gobblers, and and female turkeys are called hens.

These large birds require two key components in order to create a suitable habitat, and Santa Margarita Ranch provides both: trees and open grasslands. Food is provided by the many diverse trees on the property. At night, these large birds can be seen roosting in the branches of oak trees where they can avoid predators and extreme weather conditions. With the exception of roosting, wild turkeys are largely ground nesting birds. Open grasslands provide a perfect habitat for adult turkeys to forage for food. They often feed off seed, buds, arthropods and berries.

The turkeys pictured here were spotted on the ranch this week, and they won’t be appearing on a holiday dinner table anytime soon!

Stay tuned here for more SPOTTED wildlife profiles—and join us for a tour to see our abundant wildlife in person!