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Wild Turkey Flocks to Washington Heights Fire Escape

By Carla Zanoni | April 17, 2012 2:26pm

HUDSON HEIGHTS — Uptown has gone to the birds.  

A wild turkey has Washington Heights residents clucking after the plump and solitary bird began roosting on a fire escape landing late last week.

The bird isn't the only wild turkey to make Manhattan home in the past several years. Zelda, a female turkey, has been sighted in Battery Park since 2003. That year, another wild turkey was spotted Uptown, reportedly roosting for months along the Hudson River in Riverside Park.

The Washington Heights turkey first appeared on the fire escape in the Hudson View Gardens apartment complex at West 183rd Street and Pinehurst Avenue late Friday night, neighbors said. 

"It’s so random," said Washington Heights resident Colleen Furthstone. "One minute you’re running to the subway, the next minute it's 'Gobble, gobble gobble.'"

The turkey was first spotted on the first level of the fire escape, but had made its way to the second story by Monday, according to residents who have been stopping by to snap cell phone photos of the out-of-place guest. 

The turkey has sat balanced on a railing inside the fire escape corridor, shyly keeping its back to the small crowd of visitors that have been flocking to see it two stories below. Onlookers can be seen eagerly waiting for their chance to see the animal fan its tail feathers or flash its fleshy waddle.

Wild turkeys can weigh as much as 30 hefty pounds, yet can fly at speeds of up to 55 miles per hour and run at least 12 mph, according to SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

With mating season for wild turkeys typically beginning in April, Hudson Heights' turkey may be looking for love.

"During this time, the toms perform courtship displays — strutting, fluffing their feathers, dragging their wings and gobbling — all in an effort to attract willing hens," reads the The Wild Turkey in New York pamphlet distributed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. "A single tom will mate with many hens. After mating, the hen goes off by herself to nest."

Animal Care and Control did not immediately return calls for comment on whether the department plans to remove the bird. 

Some neighbors said they suspected someone might be feeding the bird, but a handyman who tends to the building complex said he had not seen any evidence of food near the fire escape vestibule.

The birds have become increasingly common throughout the state and have actually become a nuisance to some residents of Staten Island, who have been forced to dodge turkeys that make their way into traffic — as demonstrated in one popular 2011 YouTube video

Turkeys are by no means the most exotic of Upper Manhattan’s diverse fauna, which has also been known to include seal, exotic duck, skunk, hawk and owls in recent years. 

"I don’t know if it’s just me, but little in New York surprises me anymore," neighbor Ronnie Skylar said Monday. "Who hasn't seen a turkey before?"