Maybe it’s a search for a mate. Maybe it’s a preemptive strike as Thanksgiving nears.
Either way, the only plates a wild turkey is getting near are license plates as it stops traffic in a Southwest Rochester neighborhood.
Since early October, a male wild turkey has taken up position along Sixth Street Southwest near the Rochester Public Schools Edison Administration Building.
On good days, the tom will slow traffic as drivers get a glimpse of the bird.
On bad days, a cacophony of car horns alerts Nick Samson that the neighborhood bird is somewhere in the street blocking traffic.
Samson, who lives on Sixth Avenue Southwest in Rochester, works from home most days. He watched as city staff and Rochester police confronted the bird in early October. He said police and staff spent hours trying to wrangle it. He said he saw a police officer fire some kind of nonlethal round at the bird in that confrontation.
“The turkey took it all in stride and came out on top,” Samson said. “Literally — he flew over a house to escape.”
Irma Micijevic, had a short standoff with the turkey in her car in mid-November.
“It walked in front of my car and wouldn’t move out of the way,” she said. “It kind of played peek-a-boo with me.”
Some neighbors have dubbed the bird “Lyle.” Another said it’s known as Gerald to his family.
Lynn Wroblewski, data manager with Rochester Public Schools, works at the Edison Building and says the turkey is docile, even friendly to those on foot.
With vehicles, on the other hand, he tends to get standoffish.
“He will wander onto Sixth (Street) and block traffic for blocks as he pecks at a car’s headlights,” Wroblewski wrote in an email.
Despite any short-term frustrations, the bird has been an endearing source of amusement, Wroblewski added.
“We all complain about him but you actually worry when you do not see him for a couple days,” Wroblewski wrote. “I hope he lives a long happy life around here — just not blocking traffic.”
While this bird has so far avoided capture by animal control and law enforcement, history shows that streak might not last if the bird continues to halt traffic or takes aggressive posture with people who live nearby.
In May 2018, Rochester police shot and killed a wild turkey that had repeatedly disrupted traffic in the area of 16th Street Southwest and Mayowood Road.
John Sherwin, interim police chief at the time, said that bird charged a child on a bike and attempts to wrangle it otherwise had failed.
Police aren’t saying much about any confrontations with this turkey. Police have received more than dozen calls for service about the bird in the area of Sixth Street and Sixth Avenue Southwest, said Rochester Police Department spokeswoman Amanda Grayson. Callers frequently report the turkey pecks at their cars as they drive by. She said officers and animal control have tried several times to net the wily bird but it remains on the loose.
Kirk Payne, retired Quarry Hill naturalist and teacher, said it’s not a typical time of year a turkey would be looking for a mate. But then again, Lyle/Gerald turned up at a time we had a spurt of warmer, brighter weather.
“Just like some of the plants got mixed up and stressed,” Payne said. “Sometimes animals get aggressive briefly if light levels trigger something.”
It does appear the bird is comfortable around people, he added.
“You have to wonder if it grew up in a more urban environment around people,” Payne said.
The area provides plenty of cover and habitat for the bird west of the Edison Building, he added.
“There is a fair amount of backyard habitat on that east-facing slope,” he said.
What was at first a novelty has now turned into a routine for some of the people in the neighborhood.
Samson said he has come to enjoy watching the bird. He shared a video of one of the many confrontations he witnessed it have with drivers.
“Watching nature causing havoc in an urban area populated by people," he said, "there’s something kind of beautiful about that.”