Turkeys get ready to roost in a yard in the East Bay town of Albany. (Audrey Sillers)
Turkeys get ready to roost in a yard in the East Bay town of Albany. (Audrey Sillers)

It has become a familiar ritual for residents of one block on Cornell Avenue in the East Bay town of Albany: Every evening just after sunset, wild turkeys appear. They amble up the street, alone, then in twos and threes, then in larger groups, until maybe 30 have gathered. They gobble and screech. As they near the home of Renu Bhatt and Pareen Shah, they flap up to the tops of cars and onto rooftops; from there, they lumber through the air into a big redwood in Bhatt’s and Shah’s backyard, where they roost for the night.

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The wild turkeys arrived about Thanksgiving, and they’ve turned the couple’s backyard into a no-play zone for their two sons, Akash, 4, and Ajay, 1.

“You can see it’s just a mess,” Bhatt says. “There are droppings everywhere, especially if you go back behind the garage. So my kids aren’t allowed to play in the backyard anymore. It’s just infested.”

That’s not the only problem. Night-time noises–sirens, say, or a loud car passing nearby–agitate the turkeys and set off a round of squawking and gobbling, and that in turn wakes up the family. Bhatt is also concerned the big birds that have claimed her backyard as home can become aggressive.

The question now is: What to do to get the birds to move on?

Bhatt says officials from Alameda County Vector Control have advised her to try to harass the birds. Bhatt says that because of her cultural and religious background–she’s Hindu, her husband, Shah, is a Jain–she wants to use a nonviolent approach.

“We’ve tried to say, ‘Shoo!’ and kind of make yourself big,” Bhatt says. “And my son will be, ‘Go away, turkeys, go away.’ So we’ve all kind of tried.” She says that more direct methods, like squirting a garden hose at the turkeys, has only prompted them to fly higher into the backyard redwood.

Vector control workers say they suspect neighborhoood residents are probably feeding the birds, thus encouraging them to stay. (The state Department of Fish and Wildlife says that’s a common problem.)

Bhatt last week wrote a public appeal for help, and she and Shah are appealing to the Albany City Council to consider an ordinance to outlaw feeding wild animals. They also want the town to approach vector control and state wildlife officials about taking action to dislodge the turkeys before their spring breeding season begins and their numbers increase.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cupajo1 Jo Ellen Cole

    Would it be possible that they would be scared off by mountain lion scat? I know this has worked with other pesky wild ones.

  • John Lovell

    Get a statue of a large raptor, or some other type of predator. If these “wild” turkeys are feral, in the sense that they are descended from domestic stock, and not actual wild species, they have probably had most of their intelligence bred out of them, and won’t be able to tell that it’s a fake.

  • sunliteco

    Net them and bring them far away but be sure to band them. If they return, they go onto the dining table of that church in San Francisco.

  • B

    These appear to be the same flock that was feeding and roosting in the Gill Tract fields. For some reason they did not return there. I would request assistance from the UC Ag folks at the Gill Tract.


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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