In terms of urban animal kingdom legend, they don’t get much more legendary than how legendary the Kingfield Turkeys have become over the last few weeks.
Legends, I say. Legends. The new kings of Kingfield.
Six of ’em. Owning the neighborhood. Roosting in a tree over 37th & Nicollet. Stopping traffic outside Butter Bakery Cafe. Feasting on the seeds of the 39th & Van Nest community garden. Loitering outside Dave The Pie Guy, thinking about hitting Victor’s for breakfast. Crossing 39th & Blaisdell in formation, like the Beatles on the Abbey Road crosswalk. Hanging out in front of Lyndale Community School. Going to confession at Incarnation church.
Since early fall the gang of six, the so-dubbed Kingfield Turkeys (a parent and her/his five babies), has been spotted by diligent citizens waltzing, sashaying, strutting, flying, roosting in, and waddling the streets of South Minneapolis, most frequently around Pleasant and Pillsbury avenues between 35th and 40th streets. They move in a pack and are, for sure, a sight to behold: pecking, prancing, preening, gobbling at each other and at us — pretty much whiling the day away like only truly free birds can.
Stealthy buggers, too. I spent much of Monday morning trying to get a picture of the elusive beasts, hoping for an interview (“When will you show us your feathers? Why did you pick us, lucky us, to be your roostmates? Do you need a place to stay?”), but after a while I gave up because it felt like I was hunting for Nessie or Sasquatch, so mythical had these jive turkeys become to me after a weekend of monitoring the most excellent Kingfield Turkeys Facebook page.
“I started the group page on Nov. 5, but the turkeys have been around here as long as I can remember,” said Chris Flannery, a father of three and store manager who studied forestry and geography in college. “I remember back in August, seeing them when they were really tiny, just really little turkeys. I said to my daughter, ‘Let’s go walk up and say “hi” to the turkeys.’ So we did, and I took some photos and I just thought it was weird that there wasn’t a collective place to talk turkey and post pictures.
“It’s been fun, and everyday I’m adding more people. I think it’s kind of nice because there’s so much negativity on Facebook. I’m in a lot of groups, and this is totally nondenominational. It’s about as nondenominational as you can get. It’s just turkeys walking around our neighborhood. Nobody’s fighting over what turkey said to the media or how turkey voted or what turkey tweeted or anything like that.”
“I’ve been following the turkeys; it’s so fun,” said Kingfield resident Jane Onsrud, who provided the photo for this column. “It’s a way for the community to share in something. We don’t always have opportunities to do that, and I think the community feels a little ownership and protection of the turkeys now, and that’s cool.”
“This seriously is the best thing on the internet right now,” wrote Kelly Rae Garland on the Facebook page. “I love these turkeys!!!”
Apart from the fact that it reads like a real-time National Geographic feature happening right outside your front door, the Kingfield Turkeys Facebook page is a wonderful testament to people’s senses of humor and humanity, with neighbors, acquaintances and strangers joining in on the purist form of good gossip, the kind that gives a neighborhood sinew and something to chew on while milling around at the bus stop, bar or butcher shop. (Happy Thanksgiving to all humans and turkeys alike, by the way.)
“I guess they find the urban environment pretty safe for them,” said Bryan Lueth of the Department of Natural Resources, who has done time as the DNR’s resident urban turkey expert. “There’s a general absence of predators, there’s no hunting season, there’s abundant food resources in the form of bird feeders and other landscaping plants that homeowners tend to plant, so I think life is pretty good for an urban turkey. They don’t face the normal mortality factors that more rural birds do.
“And sure, an urban turkey can be ornery, but they’re a bird. What are they going to do to you? But for whatever reason, I do see these stories around the country, and they seem to have it in for postal carriers. I don’t know if it’s the color of the uniform or what, but there’s all these stories about turkeys harassing postal carriers.”
Reports of East Coast turkeys terrorizing towns are fairly frequent, and in the Twin Cities, the Kingfield Turkeys are relative turkeys-come-lately to the urban turkey trot, which for a few years now has been led by the omnipresent turkeys of Northeast Minneapolis, who have inspired not one but two Facebook pages and a Twitter account.
What’s more, this year big gobblers have been spotted at the University of Minnesota campus and Richfield; a traffic-blocking turkey recently took over the Hennepin-Lyndale Interstate 94 onramp; and in Moorhead last winter, the City Council met to address the “large populations of wild turkeys within city limits” that resulted from residents feeding the birds.
“I’m an Eagle Scout, I grew up in Milwaukee,” Flannery said. “We lived on the far outskirts of Madison, Wisconsin, in a small town where we had turkeys and deer and everything as we were out in the country. Now we’re smack dab in the city, and there’s turkeys almost out our front door, which is fun for my wife and I.”
Same here — that was me, in fact, gobbling loudly on my bike the other day, hoping to attract the real deal, and now I’m off again to do some more turkey hunting. I’ll post photos on the Kingfield Turkeys page if I score, but I’m in no hurry.
“Absent someone intervening to capture them or something like that, they’ll probably be just fine for a while,” the DNR’s Lueth said. “They might get picked off by a coyote or owl or something, but other than that, I wouldn’t be surprised if they survived the whole winter.”
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in South Minneapolis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.