Tag Archive | wild turkey

Wild Turkeys In The Yard

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I apologize for the quality of the photograph, my digital camera has a very limited telephoto lens. Close examination will reveal a mama turkey and her four poults.  They have been spending considerable time in our yard.  The first time I saw the hen with her babies, she was in the pasture, a few hundred yards from the house, with another hen and that female’s dozen month-old babies. This hen had six little ones, perhaps a week old.

That was about a month ago.  Lately, the hen has been bringing her brood right into the yard.  I believe she is one of the birds that visited our feeders last winter and is quite comfortable near humans.  The presence of my forty free-range chickens may also encourage her.  She is down to four babies.  One managed to drown itself in the horses’ watering tub.  Very sad.  The other baby disappeared early.  Since she is likely a first-time mother, she is learning about keeping her poults safe.  The older hen with the multitude of babies is experienced.  I’ve seen her for several years, now, and she doesn’t come so close to the house.  That hen may be the younger one’s mother.

One day this week I heard lots of turkey clucking and crying of babies.  I investigated and found the hen in our side yard calling her poults who had taken to the trees.  Something must have frightened them.  The baby turkeys are excellent fliers, traveling well above roof level and flapping strongly.  As they get older, weight will limit them mostly to gliding and quick bursts of wing beating to get in trees.

In the photo above, the birds are crossing our raised septic drainage field, about forty feet from the house.  I find their feathers all over the yard and would not be surprised to learn they go in the barn trying to get the chicks’ feed.  I’ve spotted them in the blueberry patch, an excellent source of nutrition right now.  These birds only become wary if they see a human.  They have no fear of man-made structures or the farm animals, except the dogs.  I worry they will contract blackhead (histomoniasis,a protozoan infection,) from the chickens.  This is a fatal turkey disease carried by chickens, who are much less susceptible to the illness.  I have never seen evidence of the disease in my chickens so perhaps they are free of it.  Hard to say since chickens can carry the protozoa with no symptoms.

The turkeys have ranged in the same space as my chickens for several years without any indication of a turkey die-off.  I love to see these huge wild birds and hope they continue to flourish.

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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.