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2020 Turkey Chronicles - Part III

7-1 Busy day!

July can be foggy in our region. In the morning, Mom looked on protectively over a rather damp and not altogether happy youngster. That’s right, no house to shelter from the rain, fog and wet grasses. Somehow, they make do just fine, though. Nature seems to provide just about everything they need.

This afternoon I walked into my office to turn on my printer only to see this crazy scene out the window. I had just a moment to grab my camera from the other room, focus and nab a solitary image. No time to get closer to the window and frame the scene, avoiding the windowpane dividers. The fawn looks a bit incredulous at all these gangly birds, just as big as the fawn itself, nonchalantly grazing so close by. Its mom is completely nonplussed ignoring the crowd. And the hens seem to have no problem with the deer. So much wildlife in such a small space! I imagine that long ago, before humans took over, this was the norm.

In the evening, the turkeys decided to roost in the large oaks next to my house. What a treat! To watch them navigate the tree limbs, flying from perch to perch to find a safe haven for the night was really special. Here a single juvenile (I learned that they are only called poults for the first month!) looks towards mom higher up in the canopy. This one will make its way to her shortly. A single youngster alone for the night would not be safe.

7-2 Mother's Love

Lovely day to photograph turkeys! The hens went out to the corral fence to hang out. Henny or Penny, can’t always tell them apart, modeled ideal behavior to one of her young charges. To me, these are a couple of iconic images portraying Mother’s Love.

Then one hen took off flying over the berry patch fence. Amazing that these large, seemingly ungainly birds can fly so well.

7-3 Bedtime

It’s getting towards dusk, 7:30pm and bedtime for the turkeys. I continue to be delighted to see them take flight, even if it is just up. They wear such enormous wings, but seem to use them so rarely. They are not like albatross who soar over the seas for months on end, or condors and eagles who are at home aloft on the invisible currents of the sky. But when an emergency arises, turkeys will lift off and fly over a fence. I’ve even seen a couple fly for a hundred yards across my meadow. Not sure what prompted that behavior. And after a grounded start as hatchlings, I’m pretty sure the young ones fly into the trees each and every night where they roost safe from ground predators.

"I suppose it's safest up here on mom's back!"

Up we go!

7-5 Mares eat oat and does eat oats and so do turkeys

Tom's busy feeding on wild seed, both wild oats and velvet grass.

7-7 Watering hole

I have two containers out in front of my house all year round with water for the wild critters. The turkeys appreciate them and during spring and summer they come regularly to drink. The young are always learning from their moms, whether it’s about where to find water, how to drink it, what to eat, where and how to groom, or where to sleep for the night.

7-10 Getting fancy

Tim is a bit of a dandy. He’s a mega-groomer, always taking great care to pluck out the flaky bits of skin, preen his feathers and get his ‘house’ in order. He seems to groom more than Tom or Clippity-clop, but it may be that he generally does so on my deck railing in full view, or up on the pasture gate, so he's hard to miss. Rather dramatic about it he is.

I also followed the boys out to the garden, where I captured Tom feeding on wild oats again. Imagine trying to feed yourself without hands and with a only hard, pointed beak to do your picking, grasping and gathering.

7-18 Turkey beard

Here’s a close up of Tom’s beard. Not sure of its function. It looks a lot like horse hair, or the hairs on the end of an elephant’s tail. I’ve read it’s made of keratin and considered feathers. Go figure. Presumably the beard acts as a sensor for things in front of the turkey’s chest, largely out of sight. Maybe it’s also considered sexy.

7-18 Hanging out

Another day photographing the hens and their youngsters hanging out on the corral fence. I wonder about motive all the time. Is this just a cool place to hang out for a while? A new view from a-high? Practice for getting up into the higher tree branches at night? Turkeys do seem to like to perch when taking a break. At least some do. Tim for one likes to hang out a lot on my deck railing, though Clippity Clop has an odd habit of sticking his head in the rosemary in front of my house when he wants to rest. Again, go figure! To each his own.

7-19 Grooming again

As I’ve mentioned before, Tim is a bit of a dandy. He seems to spend an inordinate amount of time grooming himself. Perhaps it is more generous to say he has good hygiene habits. He prefers to perch on my deck railing to pick bits of dried skin from under his feathers, clean the feathers themselves, scratch a bit, remove seeds which may have gotten caught, and do whatever else turkeys do when they groom themselves. Notice the new wing feather he is growing out. I guess grooming is essential since a turkey has between 5000 and 6000 feathers! Imagine!

7-20 Together, alone

Tom and Tim came by today as they usually do. Here’s a photo of the two of them walking together out towards the meadow. That’s Tom in front, Tim behind.

Not sure what this youngster was calling about, but it had something important to say.

The hens hung out on the horse corral fence again today with their youngsters. I have not had horses for a number of years now, so it is a treat to see other animals utilizing the corrals. In a different fashion, for sure!

This looks like turkey classroom. Henny or Penny showing a couple of juveniles what to look for when scratching for seed.

7-22 Taking it easy

The girls and clan are hanging out again, taking in the view from the corral fence. I’m pretty sure this is also training for roosting on branches, albeit these have squared off edges. Then again, the fence rails don’t move in the breeze, or when another turkey lands or takes off. Those little ones sure are cute.

7-29 Back for a drink

Time to get a drink. I am sure the turkeys have appreciated the water I put out, which is nearby the meadow where they’ve fattened up on wild oats, grubs and whatever else they eat. I can see the water containers from my front desk. Getting a drink is always a big event for the flock. Here Henny and two of her poults get their fill, tossing their heads back to down the water.

7-31 Portraits of Tim

I thought I’d end the month with a couple of portraits of Tim. I wish I knew more about the color changes of the skin on their heads and necks. Lots of study has been done on octopuses, but not near as much on wild turkeys. Most of the time the skin on Tim’s neck is white surrounding the small red caruncles. But today it was very blue. I’m pretty sure some of these color changes are due to hormones and signify emotional states, but may also change depending on ambient temperatures.

1 Comment

Chere Tamura
Chere Tamura
Feb 14, 2021

I love learning more about wild turkeys and listening to the great way you tell stories Jodi! Amazing pictures, as always!

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