The Suitcase Lady

Wild

May 22, 2012, 9:37 pm

In Asia it is the Year of the Dragon, but where we live, it is The Year of the Turkey. Our yard and the fields and roadsides around us are bristling with wild turkeys. Yesterday, five of them spent a pleasant afternoon having an extended lunch in The Tooley Cafe.

We are delighted to host these big birds, the largest game birds in North America. It’s no wonder that a young relative on seeing wild turkeys for the first time exclaimed, “Look at the little dinosaurs.” A 20 pound, 4 foot long bird with 5,500 feathers is an imposing sight. I confess to laughing when I read this note in my bird book, “This bird is distinctive and unlikely to be confused with others.”

Our turkeys are especially welcome as they were eliminated in Wisconsin by the early 1900’s. Reintroduced in the 50’s and 60’s, they have made an amazing comeback here and in all the states. Approximately 7 million wild turkeys now roam about America.

A few weeks ago, something outside caught my peripheral vision signaling my brain to take notice. Focusing on the pine woods next to our house, I saw a huge tom turkey showing off for a hen, fan tail fully opened and face bright red and blue. Sadly for tom, she took one look at his fantastic display and ambled the other way. Since toms have “harems” of up to twenty hens, I’m sure he had better luck on other days.

It would be a mistake to think of wild turkeys as anything kin to their domestic counterparts. Wild turkeys can run 25 miles per hour. Their top flight speed is 55 miles per hour, and they are able to fly straight up and away. At night they roost in trees.

The birds see in color and have daytime vision that is three times better than humans’ eyesight. (Their night vision, however, is poor.) Excellent hearing allows competing males to hear each other from up to a mile away.

I must admit that I enjoy these wild turkeys more than any of the birds that have come into our home on a certain November day.

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