Monday, February 26, 2007

More Turkey Talk

The turkeys are still with us, well some of them are. Beth was lucky to find them walking in a line a couple of days ago and counted 11 of them. The group has broken up but four of them are still with us. I don’t know what the social interactions are with turkeys and if associations and partings are common behavior, especially in winter. Perhaps it’s as simple and complicated as available shelter, water, and food.

There are many trees for sheltering and the birds have selected trees in a protected area by the big creek in back for roosting areas. They start heading for the trees about two hours before sundown, seeking perching places in the high branches. They look like tailless tadpoles in the trees and usually face into a prevailing wind. Water is available in the creek at the base of the trees. The creek is shallow but has never completely iced over. Some areas of the creek become constricted, forcing water through narrow banks. The creek bed is heavily lined with gravel and liberally strewn with rocks, creating a miniature flume of rushing water.

Turkeys spend most of their time on the ground, like pheasants, quail, and grouse, searching for food. In addition to all of our burdock, we have seen them eating the brilliantly colored fruit of Sumac (Rhus typhina). The fruits are on the tips of the branches, about ten feet from the ground, and it is amusing to see a daredevilish large bird among them. Some of the birds will peck at the “harvester’s” feet, to force him out of the way or encourage quicker work I’m not sure. The rest will be on the ground, gleaning the tailings of another’s effort.

Three of the turkeys found the suet and bird feeders up by the house. They were unable to make the connection between the feeders set up high to the edible morsels on the ground but seemed to greatly enjoy their troves. We flushed them away, incidentally of course, and as they flew away to safety heard them make a quiet 2-note call of alarm and warning. It wasn’t a sound I would have associated with large birds and probably never would have connected it to a turkey if I hadn’t heard it myself.