As a wildlife photographer living in Arkansas, I’ve had the privilege of observing and photographing many amazing scenes involving wild turkeys. One of my favorite subjects is the wild turkey hen. These remarkable birds have some fascinating eating habits that I’ve documented right here in the Natural State.
Last year on September 9, 2022, I had an incredible encounter with a flock of turkey hens. I was sitting in my ground blind near a small field I had planted with winter rye grass. This field bordered the lush Ouachita National Forest. At around 1:30 pm, a small flock of hens emerged from the forest and entered the field. They immediately began foraging and feeding on the tender young rye grass shoots.
Some hens paused to take refreshing dirt baths, ruffling their feathers in the soft soil (“Wild Turkey Taking Dirt Bath”). I captured some great images that day, like this close-up shot showing them up close and personal as they fed. The hens were completely oblivious to my presence, allowing me to observe and photograph their natural behaviors from a close vantage point.
Turkey hens are omnivores, feeding on a wide variety of plant matter, seeds, berries, acorns, and small invertebrates. Here in Arkansas, favorite foods include waste grain and seeds in agricultural fields, grasses, clover, berries, and all sorts of nuts and seeds from the surrounding forests.
One interesting habit I’ve observed is that flocks of hens will often return to the same feeding areas day after day if the food source remains abundant. They forage steadily throughout the day, taking occasional breaks to preen and rest. In the spring, their diet shifts as they feed more on nutrient-rich greens and insects to support egg production.
As a wildlife photographer, I find turkey hens endlessly fascinating to observe and photograph. Their natural behaviors and feeding habits reveal the remarkable adaptations of these wild birds. I feel honored to be able to document turkey hens and other wildlife right here in my home state of Arkansas. Let me know in the comments if you have any good turkey hen stories!
Steve Creek, Wildlife Photographer
- Camera: Canon EOS R7
- Lens: Canon RF 800 mm F11
- Location: Oden, Arkansas
- Date and Time Taken: September 9, 2022 (1:49 P M.)
- Exposure Mode: Manual
- Aperture: f11
- Shutter speed: 1/800
- ISO: 5000 (Auto)
- Exp. Comp.: +0.3
- Focal Length: 800 mm
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What do wild turkey hens eat besides rye grass?
Turkey hens have a varied diet that includes plant matter, seeds, berries, acorns, and small invertebrates.
2. Why do turkey hens take dirt baths?
Dirt baths help turkey hens keep their feathers clean and may also deter parasites.
3. Do turkey hens return to the same feeding areas year-round?
While they may revisit familiar spots, their diet can change with the seasons.