I picked Wild Turkeys for the first post because they are a bright spot in a often dismal overview of species decline. Turkeys are thriving.Most of the time turkeys are seen, they shyly melt into the undergrowth. But a few are acclimated to humans, and easy to observe. They are excellent flyers, a surprise for such a large bird, but perhaps not so surprising when one considers that they roost high in trees at night to escape predators such as coyotes, cougars, foxes, bobcats,raccoons…and of course humans. Many, besides the original Pilgrims, consider wild turkey dinners a treat.
Turkeys are native to North and Central America. Five subspecies are recognized. Our local species is Merriam’s, which ranges from southern Mexico into Colorado.They especially like Ponderosa Pine seeds and the fruit and leaves of Kinnikinnic, a low ground cover growing under the pines, as well as grubs and other insects. Recent forest fires have opened a patchwork of burned and unburned areas preferred by turkeys. Seeds are easier to find on scorched earth, while the unburned areas provide shelter from winter winds and refuge from predators.
In spring the toms (males) strut their stuff before the females. In their breeding plumage of gorgeous iridescent golds, greens, coppers, and bronze, they spread their huge tails, puff up their feathers, and pose so their naked head and neck of blue and red with its fleshy red wattle hanging from the beak is in full view. Then with all the dignity they can muster, they turn slowly so the hens will be suitably impressed. However, until the hens are ready, they fain indifference.
Breeding toms gobble loudly…a sound that carries up and down the valley. The rest of the year, the whole flock gobbles softly among themselves. This is the first year we have had a flock in our valley, and it’s a treat for us.
See and hear the turkeys by clicking this link. turkeys on parade