Where to see wild turkeys in the Bay Area
Turkeys trotting in Berkeley. Photo courtesy of Eric Brown.
If you live in the Bay, chances are you've seen more than a few wild turkeys strutting around your neighborhood or your local hiking trails. But where did they come from? It turns out they're not native to California and were introduced by the California Fish and Game Commission between 1959 and 1999 to make money through recreational hunting licenses. The turkeys were relocated from places like Texas and Nevada, and then released into the California wilderness. Locally, the turkey population has thrived, and they seem to particularly like living in the East Bay. In the spirit of the season, we show you where you might find these large birds trotting free.
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Wild turkeys seem to be especially fond of Concord. Residents have come across the wild beasts foraging in neighborhood lawns throughout the city. In 2018, a flock of wild turkeys ruffled feathers at John Muir Health Center, but most residents enjoy having the turkeys in the community. Take BART to Concord and walk about 25 minutes to Lime Ridge Open Space via the Contra Costa Canal Trail.
Briones Regional Park
Happy-go-lucky gobblers are no stranger to Lafayette either. A lesser-known big pocket of wilderness in the East Bay, Briones Regional Park in the Briones Hills houses Briones Peak, its apex of panoramic views admired by turkeys and hikers alike. Upon arrival at Lafayette, walk 1.3 miles along Happy Valley Road and Panorama Drive to get to this 6,000-acre wilderness area.
Lafayette Reservoir Recreation Area
The Lafayette Reservoir Recreation Area is an all-year day-use area ideal for hiking, jogging, fishing, boating, picnicking and spotting plenty of turkeys. Take BART to Lafayette and walk 20 minutes west on Mt Diablo Blvd to get there.
Berkeley’s wild turkey population took off about nine years ago in the more suburban neighborhoods of the city, according UC Berkeley Professor of Conservation Biology Steven Beissinger. Since then, the birds have become increasingly comfortable making their way into the city’s busier areas. Take BART to Downtown Berkeley and walk five minutes onto campus.
Tilden Regional Park
Tilden Park is a classic go-to sandwiched between the Berkeley Hills and San Pablo Ridge. Spanning more than 2,000 acres, its bicycle-, dog-, and turkey-friendly trails through rolling green are met with a botanical garden, swimming lake, and the Redwood Valley Railway steam train within its borders. Take BART to Downtown Berkeley and transfer to AC Transit #67 and ride to Canon Drive.
The Martin Canyon Creek Trail on the west side of Dublin is a best kept secret. This trail consists of crushed stone or packed soil, perfect for turkey or human feet. From the main trail, there are a couple of parallel, single track paths that branch off the trail to get closer to the creek, which are heavily appreciated by turkeys in need of a drink. Take BART to West Dublin/Pleasanton and walk 25 minutes to the Martin Canyon Creek Trailhead.
Alum Rock Park is one of California’s oldest municipal parks and a favorite of wild turkeys. Nestled within the Alum Rock Canyon in the foothills of the Diablo Range, the park's 720 acres of natural, rugged beauty provide visitors with outdoor activities including hiking, horseback riding, bicycling and group picnicking. See our BARTable by bike: Berryessa Ridge Trail feature on how to get there from our new Berryessa/North San José Station.
Redwood Regional Park
It's no secret that turkeys love the Berkeley and Oakland Hills, and who doesn't appreciate redwoods? No one ever said turkeys have bad taste when it comes to nature. Redwood Regional Park has been known to house a turkey or two and is an East Bay trove. Ride BART to Fruitvale and take AC Transit #39 or #339 to Dunn Trail.
There is a large flock of turkeys that inhabit the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. If you don’t see them right away, make sure to look high up in the trees – they’re known to enjoy a bird's eye view from time to time. Take BART to Rockridge and walk 26 minutes to Mountain View Cemetery.
Wild turkeys are less prevalent in San Francisco than in the East Bay, but there are curious fowl that weren't chicken to cross the Bay. Turkeys in SF usually keep to Golden Gate Park, and enjoy a few of the golf courses in town. There are many SF Muni lines that connect to BART to bring you to Golden Gate Park, but we recommend following our recent BARTable by bike: Ocean Beach route for a beautiful bike ride from Downtown SF to Ocean Beach through Golden Gate Park.