As a “Birder” I enjoy seeing and observing birds. However, over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that most birds have no particular desire or interest in being seen or observed by me. Most birds stay low key and well out of view.
Staying low key and well out of view brings to my mind quite a few different birds, but especially this month’s Bird of the Month, the Wild Turkey.
The Wild Turkey is a relatively common, noisy, and large bird. Yet…being as common, noisy, and large as they are, Wild Turkeys aren’t the easiest birds to catch a sight of because they are cunning and cautious.
This month, most of us will be consuming a certain amount of turkey. However, I think it safe to assume that most of us will be eating domestic turkey, not Wild Turkey. As a matter of fact, if being able to partake in a turkey feast required us to go out and get a Wild Turkey, the vast majority of us would have a turkey-less Thanksgiving. (Ahhhh…Let’s give thanks to Marsh, Kroger, and Meijer…all great hunting grounds for domestic turkey.)
I grew up on a farm and I can honestly say that the domestic turkeys in our barnyard were a lot different from their wild counterparts. As I remember, those behemoths could barely walk…while Wild Turkeys are powerful flyers and surprisingly fast. Those domestic turkeys, that I remember, probably couldn’t have survived on their own without humans…while Wild Turkeys avoid people as much as possible.
When we think of the word “turkey” we often associate the word with being “dimwitted”, “stupid” and “foolish”…amongst other things. I believe it is the domestic turkey that gives us these mental images. The more one knows about the Wild Turkey, the more respect one has for them. I see them as “sleek”, “alert”, “elusive”, “cunning” and “cautious”.
I’ve seen a few Wild Turkeys this year, but none of the “looks” were very good. Some were very distant sightings, and others were just quick glimpses as the birds made speedy passes through open areas. My most memorable encounter was when I happened upon one in an open area as I was walking over a ridge. This bird and I startled each other as we found ourselves with just 30 feet of open space separating us!!! That female turkey looked at me as if to say, “What the heck are you doing way out here”? Then she took off in flight…almost straight up…and flew over some 100 foot high trees. That encounter lasted only a few heart-pounding seconds but it was very memorable.
Turkey is the first and foremost Thanksgiving menu item for most of us these days. Tradition holds that Wild Turkey was served at that very first Thanksgiving. However there is some evidence to suggest that Wild Turkey may not have actually been on the menu for the very first Thanksgiving. Venison and some game birds were definitely on the menu. But was Wild Turkey served that first Thanksgiving? I don’t know, but if Wild Turkey wasn’t on the menu it wouldn’t surprise me…because they’re so cunning and cautious.
HAPPY TURKEY MONTH EVERYONE!!!