Turkey Nuggets

It’s early February and the wild turkeys are starting to strut their stuff (as opposed to late November when they strut their stuffing). Their communications are similar to a cork slowly turning in a wine bottle and signify about the same thing–love is in the air.

turkeyI watched two males trying to out-fluff-up and out-tail-spread each other. They got almost puffy-chest to puffy-chest and circled for several minutes, uncorking their sound mechanisms all the while. Suddenly, one deflated. He then lay down with his neck outstretched below the chest of the remaining mini-zeppelin. When the winner turned away, the supplicant moved again in front of him and into the prostrate position–chest to the ground, neck stretched, head below the chest of the other. They did this dance four times. Then winning puff-daddy also deflated, and they each took a brief snooze, victor almost neck to neck with the vanquished.

Meanwhile the girls (turkettes?) appeared totally interested… in the grubs, seeds and ticks, now available where the snow had receded. Ah, the girls could not be bothered with all that strutting and puffing–they just wanna have fungus and maybe an old acorn. Abruptly, they all decamped and moved across my driveway to my neighbor’s lawn, de-corking all the way.

Speaking of sex making you stupid–last year I watched a male turkey trying the same puff-tactic with his own reflection in a large silver flower pot. After fifteen minutes of watching the turkey-go-round, (again, the girls were busy with more pressing matters), I went out and shooed Mr. Dizzy away. The flowerpot had inch-long horizontal scratches over every inch of its surface from about an inch above its base. Even male turkeys in love can’t stoop that low.

Our lawn-turkey population peaks yearly at about 25 individuals. Beginning just at dusk, they fly up and roost in the trees. They have a simple system: Gather for a little snooze. Rest up for the big trip. Gather up your wind and courage. Make noise (a turkey favorite). Flap, flap, flap. Stretch your neck. Run a little. Fly into the tree. Find a limb, rest. As soon as you regain your wind and bearings, start to change roosting spots. Meanwhile, twenty-four more aerodynamically-challenged friends are waiting for their chance at making the Spruce Goose look like a rocket. At sunrise, they begin to come down, taking about 20 minutes for all of them to make land.

By the way, I have seen the “turkey trot.” Just once, eight years ago. After they had all landed, they formed a circle (put your one giblet in, put… never mind). Then, they walked in that circle for perhaps two minutes. I could almost make out the conversation: “Hey, it’s morning! OK! we all survived another night! Why did they name a country after us? Two take-offs! Two landings! Fourteen musical-limb maneuvers! Seen any good ticks yet? Everybody here? I’m awfully stiff. Count off! Oops, sorry.”

Boy, Ben Franklin, why didn’t we listen? These really should have been our national bird.