Wild Turkeys

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Turkeys scavenging under the apple trees.

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Working under the bird feeder

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Wild turkeys roam our land.  This was not always so.  As a child, I never saw or heard a turkey on the farm.  Where turkeys had historically been plentiful, they were extinct by the 1960s when my family moved to the farm.  Through the efforts of the State, the wild turkey has been very successfully re-introduced to its Maine range.

The large, wary birds are seen often.  The toms call in the woods. Whole families of hens, toms and poults roam the fields.  I’ve watched two tom turkeys battle for hours at the bottom of our pasture, until one finally gave up and ran.  Then, in a matter of seconds, they were best friends again, eating grass shoots side-by-side.  I was able to collect several beautiful feathers that fell from the colorful male birds during the tussle.  I have a whole vase full of turkey feathers picked up on our land.  Most have a gorgeous purple iridescent sheen.  The striped ones are flight feathers, the tall two-tone brown are tail feathers, and the other, square-ended plumes are all body feathers.

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I love to see these wild birds.  Their comeback is a major success story, I think, righting a wrong done by our ancestors.  Some don’t agree with me, they think the turkeys eat food that would otherwise sustain deer.  I say turkeys and deer cohabited here for millenia before whiteman arrived and that is the way it was meant to be.  The deer herd is large and healthy.  For certain, there are enough apples in our orchard to go around.  Turkey and deer prints lace the orchard snow.

The recent foot of fresh powder snow makes an excellent canvas for recording wildlife activity. Yesterday I found a spot where three turkeys took flight. The marks are obvious in the snow. The entire wing imprint is evident, the primary and secondary feathers beating against the snow to help push the heavy bird into the air. The furrow left in the snow by the tail and undercarriage of the bird quickly decreases as the body becomes airborne. Here is the trace left by one of the turkeys in the snow.

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Turkey flight path, bird flying directly toward the viewer.

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Direction of flight toward the top of the photo, the indents of the individual primary and secondary flight feathers in the snow, and the furrow left by the body.

One Thanksgiving Day we were visited by eleven wild turkeys in our front yard.  Guess no one told them what was on the menu!  I have surprised a group of more than twenty birds in the orchard or the blueberry patch.   The sight of so many huge birds taking to the air at once is amazing.

I hope we will always enjoy the company of these lovely wild birds.  Now if only man could clone and re-introduce the passenger pigeon.  I would love to witness the fabled endless clouds of migrating pigeons that our ancestors enjoyed, just before they killed and ate them all.

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2 thoughts on “Wild Turkeys

  1. I guess I didn’t comment before when I read this – those poctures of the turkeys taking flight are pretty amazing! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before.

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