The Daily Bucket is a place where we can post and exchange our observations about the natural happenings in our neighborhoods. Birds, bugs, blossoms and more - each notation is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the natural patterns that are unwinding around us.
The trees created a natural bower, covering the path, dimming the sunlight, dappling the grass below. Ahead of us a single turkey bobbed, leading us, occasionally turning to look over her shoulder. As we stepped into the sunlight, the turkey disappeared, a ghost evaporating from view. Instead, we could see the ancient tombstones rising out of the earth, declaring to all the mortality of mankind...
That little story took place several years ago when we visited the grave sites of some of Jim's ancestors in western Illinois. The turkey in the tale was real (and not the turkey in the photo above), a little eerie, perhaps, but not a phantom.
Indeed, wild turkeys are common. Native to North America, they range across the continent, most densely in the eastern half of the country, including Iowa and Illinois. According to the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF):
From only 30,000 turkeys in the early 1900s to more than 7 million today, this intriguing species has truly made an awesome comeback.Around us, we used to see turkeys now and then in our yard. Flocks of a dozen or more would wander in, checking the food supply, before wandering out again. We haven't seen any for at least a couple of years, since there has been more development around us.
Here are some more fun facts about wild turkeys from the NWTF:
Two major characteristics distinguish males from females: spurs and beards. Both sexes have long, powerful legs covered with scales and are born with a small button spur on the back of the leg. Soon after birth, a male's spur starts growing pointed and curved and can grow to about two inches. Most hen's spurs do not grow. Gobblers also have beards, which are tufts of filaments, or modified feathers, growing out from the chest. Beards can grow to an average of 9 inches (though they can grow much longer). It must also be noted that 10 to 20 percent of hens have beards.And from my favorite bird site, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology,
Hens lay a clutch of 10 to 12 eggs during a two-week period, usually laying one egg per day. She will incubate her eggs for about 28 days, occasionally turning and rearranging them until they are ready to hatch.
Wild turkeys like open areas for feeding, mating and habitat. They use forested areas as cover from predators and for roosting in trees at night. A varied habitat of both open and covered area is essential for wild turkey survival.
A native of North America, the turkey is one of only two domesticated birds originating in the New World. The Muscovy Duck is the other.Familiar and unfamiliar calls may be found here.
European explorers took Wild Turkeys to Europe from Mexico in the early 1500s. They were so successfully domesticated in Europe that English colonists brought them back with them when they settled on the Atlantic Coast. The domestic form has retained the white tail tip of the original Mexican subspecies, and that character can be used to distinguish wandering barnyard birds from wild turkeys which have chestnut-brown tail tips.
The male Wild Turkey provides no parental care. When the eggs hatch, the chicks follow the female. She feeds them for a few days, but they quickly learn to feed themselves. Several hens and their broods may join up into bands of more than 30 birds. Winter groups have been seen to exceed 200.
Jim and I are with family today, as are many of you, but we'll be back to read and respond later. What is going on in the (natural) world around you? Any stories of wild turkeys you can share?