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Entertainment by Turkeys

August 25, 2013

I love our wild turkeys.  I see them nearly every day, and I never get tired of them.  They are unlikely looking birds, especially as they peck the seed below our feeder, while the more spritely chickadees and titmice and juncos zip in and out of the trees to the feeder perches. But, they are a good illustration of how birds evolved from dinosaurs.

Benjamin Franklin argued that their virtues qualified the wild turkey to be our national symbol. In a letter to his daughter, he wrote, “For the truth the Turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat on.”

Turkzilla and MinionsCurrently, we have four big toms that are nearly daily visitors.  We’ve dubbed them Turkzilla and His Minions, as one is clearly larger than the rest.  And, none of them are really small. I am sad and anxious for them on a day when they don’t show up.  Steve says that they are coming to court “the lady of the house,” (that would be me).  They are molting right now, leaving lovely iridescent chest feathers and mottled tail feathers scattered about our side yard.  Steve teases that these are “love notes” for me.  Indeed, the tail feathers are perfect for tying flies: material ideal for wings for caddisflies and hoppers.

Turkey and HondaWhile they are big (photo with front of Honda Civic for scale), I don’t find them to be all that aggressive.  In fact, usually when we go out to the deck or the garage service door, they move away from us.  Not fast, but they do move away.  One time, I came around the end of the garage to the side of the house where they like to hang out, forgetting that they were there.  More intent in putting something in the recycling bin, one of the turkeys stood straight up and gobbled at me – that got my attention!  But, I quietly retreated, and the turkeys resumed their preening.  Maybe it will be different during mating season, as you sometimes hear about urban turkeys getting aggressive. In particular, they seem to be invading Boston recently.  Perhaps planning a new tea party in a belated protest at being passed over as the national bird?

Despite the four big toms, I’ve been worried about the local turkey population.  When we first moved here, we had plenty of hens around, and clutches of “turklets” each year.  But, we’ve had a series of dry years, and then the oak moths decimated our oak trees and the acorn crop last year.  But, we just checked our trail cam, and found that a mixed flock has been through the area.  Don’t know if these are our “boys,” but with healthier trees and prospects for an acorn crop this year, I hoping for even more turkeys around next year.

From → Birds

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