TRAVERSE CITY — There is a pair of loiterers on Traverse City’s east side who have captured the attention of daily commuters.
They stand around in parking lots and on street corners. They lolly-gag across roads, sometimes at least using crosswalks. And they are known to be less than keen on pickups that get a bit too close with what are clearly offensive snowplows. Sometimes they even squawk a little.
Traverse City residents and visitors alike have over the last several months come to adore a now-beloved pair of wild turkeys.
Local radio and television announcers have hosted naming contests for the birds, and there’s even now a Facebook page dedicated to the turkeys’ honor.
It’s a whole Traverse City mood.
“The traffic actually stops and lets them go on through,” said Dennis Brown, a sales representative at Northern Building Supply on South Airport Road. “They don’t seem to be bothered by anything, really.”
“Well, they will actually chase the UPS truck around a little bit, and what’s funny is they don’t chase the FedEx truck,” Brown said, laughing.
The turkeys are most often spotted along the South Airport Road corridor, between Park Drive and Garfield Avenue.
Each day motorists making their way through Traverse City have posted to social media both photographs and videos of the townie turkeys. So much so that some people began to scour the internet each day for new posts about them.
“I’d go and look for them on ‘Overheard in Traverse City’ on Facebook,” said Linda Little of Bear Lake.
“We would just see them randomly when we were in town and we thought, ‘what the heck’ when we first started seeing them,” Little said.
Eventually online talk suggested the turkeys needed their own social media account. Little said she decided to take on the challenge and be the page administrator.
There are now more than 1,200 members of the “Traverse City Turkeys” group on Facebook, a number garnered in a mere 10 days. Little said it’s no wonder the turkeys are so popular considering how disheartening news and debate typically is on social media lately. The turkeys provide a welcome relief, she said.
“There’s so much politics and nastiness online,” Little said. “This is something nice in the newsfeed.”
Even state wildlife officials said the turkeys are pretty neat.
“They are really kind of cool critters,” said Al Stewart, upland game bird specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
“It’s unique for wild turkeys to act in this fashion. Wild turkeys don’t normally hang around people a lot, although they can be acclimated,” Stewart said. “Once they establish an area and feel comfortable there, all bets are off and they’ll go through their normal routine.”
The wildlife official said when turkeys become accustomed to more urban settings it usually is because somebody is feeding them, even if unwittingly at a hanging bird-feeder.
Stewart likened Traverse City’s famous turkeys to one of Aesop’s Fables about a town mouse and a country mouse: Town-dwelling critters may eat better, but the dangers — such as rush-hour traffic — are very much heightened.
The turkeys’ Facebook page can be found by searching for “Traverse City Turkeys.”