the shy competitor

A new tom turkey appeared in the backyard this morning, advertising his presence with a lot of gobbling and displaying.  I don’t think it was the bird I discussed in the last post — the evidence for that is presented below.

He looks like an older, mature male (i.e., long beard with a black tip) and unlike the Tom from the previous post, this one is in full breeding coloration: red caruncles on his neck, blue face, and white forehead.

He stood on the edge of the hill in the backyard that goes down into wetlands below and gobbled for about 15 minutes, but never came any closer. Finally he gave up this location and moved on to another hilltop two houses away.  Where are those hens, anyway?

His beard doesn’t appear to be long as the Tom’s from the previous post (very subjective), and in addition, his “snood”, the little appendage that overhangs his beak, is quite elongated, compared to the nub the other Tom had.

Here’s a better side by side comparison:

Tom #2 photographed today, compared with a Tom #1 photographed two days ago.

Now, you might think that a lot could change in two days at this time of year, under the influence of reproductive hormones.  The snood could elongate (although that’s a lot of growth in just two days), the face could change color from lavender to bright blue, the color of the caruncles is mainly due to blood flow, so how do I know these are not the same bird?  Well, Tom #1 has an “antler” growing out of the left side of his head (behind his eye), which Tom #2 does not have.  It was still there yesterday morning when I photographed Tom #1 in the snow.

A strange fibrous or horn-like structure is growing out of the left side of this turkey’s head.  (Click on the image to select it and then click again to enlarge to full screen.)  In addition to the strange growth present on this bird, his tail feathers are not quite as nice as the complete fan of Tom #2.

It will be interesting to see which of these studly males gets breeding rights to the hens in the backyard.  I wonder if there will be any head-to-head or spur-to-spur competition.

13 thoughts on “the shy competitor

    • Thanks, Jim. Pretty amazing I could get detail on that Tom in the far backyard about 100 feet away from my porch window — with the Sony RX 10, such an impressive camera.

  1. Isn’t it strange though, that they evolved to have no feathers on their neck? Obviously, the hens don’t mind but in my opinion they are quite homely! 😅

    • Thanks for that good question. Actually, I think the hens might be the driving force for those naked necks. We (biologists) usually associate bright colors in birds with their advertisement as a quality mate. The brighter the color, longer the tail, bigger the bird, more beautiful the song…the more likely the female is to choose that bird as a mate. So I suspect, but don’t know for sure, that wild turkey hens really like those naked bright red and blue necks, as indicators of what good health (and survival) that male has, and that she wants for her chicks.

    • Wow, he’s a beauty. What intense color in the head and neck, and yes, quite a long beard. I bet he enticed a few hens to mate with him.

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