For readers in the US, wild turkeys, Meleagris gallopavo, are no longer exciting, in fact they have become a nuisance. But for readers elsewhere they still I think hold a certain fascination. If not, stop reading now!
This solitary young female appears every day near our bird feeder, scratching around for what the birds have dropped. It is easy to see why they were hunted close to extinction for all that meat (up to 20lbs of it).
Their feathers are quite beautiful:
Their heads: well, that depends on the eye of the beholder:
If you look carefully you can see her ear, that circle below and to the right of her eye. And the conical spike on the top of her head is her snood. These are much much larger in males, and hang down right over the bill. They are highly erectile, getting larger and more brightly colored during courtship. The same is true of the lumpy red warts, called caruncles.
This time of year, the females are usually in groups with their young. They practice communal chick-rearing, a good role-model for human society.
They enjoy dustbaths in a small depression they have created by scratching for seed:
If I get too close, they scuttle off, or even make a stab at flying short distances with their vestigial flight feathers:
(The adults are powerful fliers. Yesterday I scared four adults, who then flew right across my 6-acre meadow into the tops of the distant trees.)
The whole group moved on to a new food source:
Leaving one adult standing guard on the stone wall:
Until they were all safe and she too moved on:
PS: Turkey populations are a notable conservation success story, having recovered from a low of 30,000 in 1930 to about 7 million today, a remarkable comeback spearheaded by early conservationists like Theodore Roosevelt.
PPS The males are much more dramatic in appearance, but I never see them on my land in the summer. I am hoping to see one in the fall, in which case he will appear in this blog!