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Attracting Wild Turkeys, Quail, Pheasant, and Grouse

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California Quail, by Len Blumin

California Quail, by Len Blumin

Whether you want to watch them or hunt them, attracting gallinaceous birds - turkey, pheasant, quail, and grouse - to your yard or acreage is surprisingly easy.

Gallinaceous birds need relatively large ranges, so you are most likely to see them if you live near wild or agricultural lands. Like all wildlife, they need three main things to be happy: shelter, food, and water.

Although gallinaceous birds fly well, they prefer to travel mainly by foot and they are happiest travelling under cover. If your land is adjacent to a wild area, you can draw them further into your yard by planting hedgerows that provide them with a safe corridor to travel along. A diverse mix of shrubs, grasses, flowers, and the occasional tree will make an excellent hedgerow.

Fruiting shrubs, including native viburnums and wild roses, are especially good choices for hedgerows, because they provide both food and shelter.

Native grasses such as Big Bluestem, Switchgrass, and Indiangrass, perform the same double service, especially when planted in large swathes. Taller wildflowers such as Cupplant, Purple Coneflower, and sunflowers are also excellent choices. If you live in the Midwest or Great Plains, a prairie restoration project is a great way to attract gallinacaeous birds.

Oaks provide one of the most beloved fall foods of many gallinaceous birds - acorns - while native spruces and firs are good choices for grouse. Other good trees include apples, alders, hemlocks, willows, dogwoods, and poplars. Nearly all mast-producing trees are good choices.

Almost all gallinaceous birds love grains, including corn, millet, sorghum, buckwheat, amaranth, milo, rye, wheat, soybeans, and oats. These are often planted in food plots, either separately or in mixes.

One of the best plants for turkeys is chufa, a bunch grass that produces an underground tuber, which the birds eagerly scratch up in late winter and spring.

Although insects are not the main component of the diets of most gallinaceous birds, they are nevertheless an important source of nutrition, especially for young birds. Practicing organic pest management techniques such as farmscaping will protect insect food sources for birds while preventing serious loss to garden or agricultural crops.

Finally, water is the third great necessity for all wildlife. If you don't have a pond or other water feature, providing shallow basins on the ground is a good way to provide water. Gallinaceous birds may be too heavy for a standard birdbath.

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jwsimiskey on March 17, 2011:

plenty of pheasants, turkeys, ducks and geese around our area and on our creek, this is our first spring here. I can't wait to start helping them out and seeing them more!

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Jay Duve on September 19, 2010:

These are all great ways to attract more upland game birds to your area.

Netters from Land of Enchantment - NM on October 29, 2008:

I love to watch the qual run around with their little ones following. We have some living behind our house. Thank you for the article.

Bob Ewing from New Brunswick on October 28, 2008:

Keep up the good work.

kerryg (author) from USA on October 28, 2008:

Thanks, Bob!

My parents use a lot of farmscaping principles in their gardening and I was surprised recently to learn it had a name! It's always been pretty effective for them (except for a grasshopper plague one year), and now that I have a home and garden of my own it's proving effective for me as well, so I'm trying to do my part to publicize the techniques. :)

kerryg (author) from USA on October 28, 2008:

Quail are so cute.

I'm especially fond of turkeys. During a particularly bad winter when I was a teenager, we had one "adopt" us. She spent nights huddled in our shed or the woodlot and every day she would be out munching on corn and millet under the feeders, with all six cats lined up against the sliding glass door, salivating. :)

Bob Ewing from New Brunswick on October 28, 2008:

It is always encouraging to read a hub that mentions farmscaping. Very good tips here.

Paul Edmondson from Burlingame, CA on October 28, 2008:

I'm particularly fond of quail. While I'll see the occasional dove in my neighborhood, we don't have the right kind of terrain - too residential. So, we concentrate on hummingbirds with a simple feeder, but it works.

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