Osceola Turkeys of Kennedy Space Center

Mini-disclaimer: This page has nothing to do with "pet" turkeys but rather the startling comeback of the Florida Wild Turkey to America's Space Port

Proud Space Center hen

Launch Pad 39B in the morning Fog

Kennedy Space Center is set on Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge- home of the Space Shuttles, Apollo Moon rockets, SpaceX, future Mars missions and Osceola Florida Turkeys!

Sharing the launch pads are 65 amphibian and reptile species, 330 native and migratory bird species, 25 mammal and 117 fish species. (and the occasional errant Savanah Monitor lizard)

Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) in the LC39 area.

Launch Pad 39B (VAB in the background)

Well if you have made it this far, into Turkey land......you might be interested in my observations of the return of the Florida Wild turkey to America's Space port.

The space center-a trophy of man's tentative step to the stars is surrounded by primeval Florida wilderness and an isolated Atlantic sea-shore. Tour buses from the Kennedy Visitor Center spend much of their time focused on the eagles, scrub-jays, sea turtle nests and alligators in between the fascinating vistas of launch pads and rocket launches: https://www.nasa.gov/launchschedule/ 

(and the occasional cautious Osceola Turkey)

In the tall grass: Osceola hens on KSC

Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Merritt_Island/  is comprised of the 140,000 acres of land, water, and marshes (swamps) surrounding the Space Center -The jewel of Florida's east coast the refuge attracts fishermen, bird watchers and space junkies.

https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Merritt_Island/wildlife_and_habitat/FLScrubJay.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merritt_Island_National_Wildlife_Refuge

Proud Tom

The Osceola Florida Turkey description http://www.grandslamnetwork.com/osceola/

Really interesting distribution map of the Osceola Turkey: http://atoll.floridamarine.org/FLWildTurkeyModels/

Note: on the state's map, Kennedy Space Center is listed as "Not enough information" and so I am attempting to fill in some of that missing information.

Pads 39A & B

The Space Center:

True more alligators to be seen than turkeys, but the wild turkeys have spreading across the center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

View between Launch Pads A & B. (I took this picture just before the Pad B structure was demolished when the Space Shuttle program ended)


Launch Pad 39B looking north towards Mosquito Lagoon (source of wild turkeys)

Kennedy Space Center and Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge are located on a large island bordered by the Banana River & Indian Rivers, Mosquito Lagoon (well deserved name) and the Atlantic coast. For security purposes many of the water areas are off limits or are "NO Motor Zones"-Kayak, canoes and sailboats only. The no motor zone is often affectionately known as "Jurassic Park"- not for the enormous American Alligators that inhabit the area but for the excellent tarpon and Redfish available for those willing to put in a two hour paddle.

Banana River "No Motor Zone" South boundary of KSC

-shameless self portrait of me and my favorite kayak, a QCC-700

Shameless self portrait of the northern end of Kennedy Space Center (Windy day)

Flock of Roseate Spoonbills on the Banana River, KSC

The Spoonbill is found across the refuge.

These White Pelicans are mostly winter visitors to KSC


Back to the Osceola Turkeys

Palmetto bushes on the center are a mixed blessing, offering quick shelter but easily hides bobcats


Native American, South east shell gorget of Turkey Toms doing what they do normally-fighting for the hens

Turkey fossils have been dated in Florida back to around 24 million years ago and they are well represented in Native American Art. However like turkeys across America, the birds were overhunted and in Florida, the Osceola only survived in the remotest of swamps.

Since the formation of the refuge and amazing conservation efforts, the Osceola turkeys have been spreading from the remote oak hammocks north of the space center, through the palmetto parries and marshes of the middle refuge and pioneering in the pine and oaks of the southern part of Kennedy Space Center. And even a new colony has spread to the adjoining Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The key to the success of the Space Center turkey has been the Forest Service use of controlled burning. "Doing what lightning will anyway if prolonged" 

The new grass shoots resulting from the burns provide fresh feed and pathways through the dense saw palmettos bushes that had formed a natural barrier.

A small controlled burn

The aftermath of the controlled burn

The other type of controlled burn on the space center, a night rocket launch and well worth the kayak paddle.


And of course no hunting these beautiful birds on the refuge.

Tom showing off for the Space Center visitors

Next generation of Kennedy Space Center residents who have their own unique challenges as seen in the photo below.

Kayaking around the center and refuge, can be......interesting


Plans for the future of Kennedy Space Center https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/cpd_frontpage_summer2017_508.pdf

A guarantee that the turkeys and other wildlife will co-exist with the space program.


Another day on the Space Center & turkeys in the road.



1933 "Pre Space Center" map shows north Merritt Island surrounded by the shallow brackish waters of Mosquito Lagoon, the Indian and Banana Rivers. And to the east the Atlantic.

Banana Creek cuts across the island however the channel was sealed to create the crawlerway for the Apollo program.

Coyotes, turkeys and the occasional black bear have to cross the narrow isthmus at the northern end to reach the wilds of Kennedy Space Center.

Looking north from Launch Pad B, to Mosquito Lagoon.


Black buzzards sunning themselves (not turkeys)



Return Home

Contact us at: Clovis636@AOL.com