Happy Earth Day

In celebration of Earth Day, I embraced the cold air and warm sunshine, and tried to commune with nature by taking a long walk in the woods.  I saw Brown Creepers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Black-capped Chickadees, none of which I photographed because I have lost my quick trigger finger for fast-moving birds.  So I took photos of these slower-moving turkeys instead.

pair of tom turkeys

the bachelors, happy to hang out together while looking for good things to eat — and perhaps a female or two…

pair of tom turkeys

Unlike most wild turkeys that run from me when I see them in my backyard, these big Toms nonchalantly strolled through the woods foraging.

wild turkey male-

And they were happy to pose and to gobble every now and then.  They really are very beautiful birds in the sunlight — if you just ignore the teeny weeny bare head and those red lumps of flesh dangling from the neck.

wild turkey male displaying-

Same male as above — he’s just making sure I noticed him.

wild turkey male

They are more uncomfortable out in the open in the grassland, and both made a beeline for the woods on the other side of this field.

No wonder Benjamin Franklin wanted to make them our national bird.

the beauty prize goes to…

me, me, me!

ME, ME, ME!  ta-dah!

Strutting, posing, gobbling, fluffing, more strutting, this magnificent tom made his way across the yard to the bird feeder and spent most of the morning and a lot of the afternoon there.  A few of his many poses to show off his colors.

There were no hens present, so he didn't do the full tail up, wings down display.

There were no hens present, so he didn’t do the full tail up, wings down display.

How many colors do you see?

How many colors do you see?

Wattles on the neck become engorged with blood when the bird is "excited" and turn bright red.

Wattles on the neck become engorged with blood when the bird is “excited” and turn bright red.

That little appendage above the beak is called a snood.  It turns bright blue when the turkey is sexually excited, and bright red when it is ready to fight.

That little appendage above the beak is called a snood. It turns bright blue when the turkey is sexually excited, and bright red when it is ready to fight.  Sometimes it hangs  down loosely flopping over the bill (must get in the way when he pecks at food on the ground!).

Little appreciated factoids about one of our national treasures:

  • Turkeys really can fly!  Fast, in fact, up to 60 mph for a short 1/4 mile stretch.  This is an even more impressive feat when you consider that wild males can weigh over 10 kg (more than 20 pounds) but have a meager wingspan of just over 1 meter (around 4 feet).   Compared with a Great Blue Heron, which has roughly the same wingspan, but 1/10 the body weight, turkeys are flying tanks!
  • Why is this bird called a turkey, instead of the Great Breasted Iridescent Pheasant?  Blame it on the British, who were confused about where they were getting their game birds.  British imports coming from both Asia and the Americas once went through Istanbul (Constantinople, then).  The British simply called the birds by the name of their import origin — Turkey, and the name stuck.