Gobble Gobble

Turkey, Bird, Species

Well, it appears that in those days everywhere you looked there was a wild turkey strutting about. Not just that, but he admired the gorgeous mating display when the male’s tail feathers were unfurled in all their glory.

Nowadays we are more familiar with the domesticated white turkey that we enjoy at Thanksgiving. Incidentally, why is the domestic turkey white? Many years ago our wild turkey was bred with the Mexican turkey resulting in the color change. There is still evidence of the wild turkey in the dark brown tail tips of the kind we eat today.

Should You Feed Wild Turkeys?

There is a long-standing controversy over whether people should interfere with the natural course of things. They scratch in the dirt and overturn branches and leaves. When you have a foot of snow covered by a coating of ice, it’s extremely difficult to do any scratching for food. That’s the reason I am a strong advocate of collecting acorns in the autumn so that I can leave them under my bird feeders for the turkeys when snow is heavy. I also scatter sunflower seeds and cracked corn in addition to the snow to the wild turkeys. I get a great satisfaction from helping them to survive the worst winter conditions.

Turkeys are omnivorous. Besides acorns, they love all other kinds of nuts: hickory nuts, hazel nuts, butternuts, etc.. Fruit is another part of their diet, in addition to sunflower and other flower and weed seeds, insects and salamanders. We’ve got loads of salamanders hiding under rocks in our woods, and there is no shortage of insects either.

I’ll never forget one particular morning when I started up in the woods for a walk. All of a sudden I heard this wing beating and peeping and clucking sounds high in the trees over my head. I had disturbed a flock of wild turkeys that had been roosting in the tall white pines! At sunset turkeys fly up into the trees to roost for the night. They are much safer there than on the floor where foxes, wild dogs, coyotes, etc. find them easy night prey.

How Fast Can They Fly?

These amazing birds can go from zero to 55 mph in a very few seconds. They are also able to run. Their top running speed is 20 mph! They maintain a great steady walking pace also. Covering a few miles per day is normal for them.

How Many Infants Do They Have?

A female turkey will pick a bush in the forests under which she’ll lay a clutch of tan and brown speckled eggs from 4 to 17 in number. Mama will indulge her chicks by feeding them, but only for the first couple of days. She roosts on the floor with her babies, also known as’poults’, during this time. After that they’re on their own and quickly learn to forage for themselves. However, her young will travel with her at a flock all year right through the winter.

We Have All Seen Tom Turkeys, But What Do the Hens Look Like?

A Hen Turkey’s head has a blue/black color, while the Tom Turkey has a red head with a white spot on the top. Male turkeys are quiet, secretive and elusive most of the time. However when they are trying to secure their harem of hens, they make clucking and peeping sounds, and sometimes a low drumming comes from deep in their throats.

The female is a drab brown/black colour and quite thin in the spring. But come autumn all of the turkeys take on a much plumper shape. The other flap of skin that hangs over their beaks is called a’snood’. Both may turn bright red when the turkey is agitated or excited.

How Heavy Do Wild Turkeys Become?

Having to make their way from the wild retains turkeys slimmer than their national counterparts. They’ll weigh from 5 to 19 lbs. Their body measures a hefty 3- to almost 4 feet with a wingspan of 4 to almost 5 feet!

How Long Do Turkeys Live?

The average life span of a turkey in the wild is just 3 or 4 decades. Considering all the predators out there and the survival challenges, you can see why that’s the case.

Also, their territories are shrinking rapidly. Their fondness for hardwood forests which are connected to grassy fields provides them with good food resources, roosting and hiding places. Unfortunately, hardwood forests are being cut down to supply materials for human habitation.

Despite their size, these terrific birds can take to the air in an explosive burst of speed. They can turn their heads up to 270 degrees, and they have excellent hearing and vision. They could dazzle us with their courtship displays and dances.

I think Old Ben was right. They could have made an superb national symbol!

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