March is upon us and spring is just around the corner. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when snow blankets the ground and dampens our dreams of warmer and sunnier days. However, hold onto that notion of nicer weather as the world around us is on the precipice of exploding with life!
The Parklands is only a month or so away from a very interesting and vocal occurrence. That’s right; it’s time to talk turkey! We’ve all watched documentaries and videos where animals will puff up and act big and bad, in the attempt to lure a mate or establish dominance. If you keep enough distance and keep your eyes peeled, the month of April offers a spectacular opportunity to witness turkeys breeding and fighting.
Sometimes to make myself feel tougher, I’ll take my thumb and put it to my lips while blowing air to achieve a fuller and more masculine chest. I’m pretty sure this not how turkeys do it, but Tom turkeys will pursue a similar methodology to establishing breeding rights and dominance amongst the lands.
If you’ve never had the chance to witness a Tom turkey going in and out of strut, then you’re missing out! It’s sometimes comical to view these large birds running across open fields with the intent of kicking another turkey’s rear-end.Photo by Jared Norvell
Another prime way to enjoy the spring action of turkey is to listen early in the morning and late in the evening for their vocalizations. When the sun begins to creep over the horizon, female turkeys, called hens, will begin “yelping” for their male counter-part. Yelping is a series of sharp tones given by a female bird to attract and interact with other turkeys. In turn, a male turkey will respond with a quick “gobble” to indicate his interest and desire for her to head his way. These yelps and gobbles can be soft and at other times can be loud enough to hear from long distances.
If you’re not fortunate enough to hear or see these behaviors (Pope Lick Park is a great place to look!), then keep your attention on the ground for signs of turkeys. Turkey scat can be found below “roosting” trees and often males can be identified by their “J” shaped droppings. Likewise, on the ground you can find oval or circular-shaped areas that appear to be scuffed up or even raked; these areas indicate dust baths taken by turkeys to remove agitating mites. Lastly, areas of open hardwoods where leaves have been removed, almost as if someone has raked up random spots on the ground, will indicate feeding areas of multiple turkeys. Imagine if you will a group of turkeys meandering through the woods, while at the same time randomly picking and scratching at the ground to uncover grubs, worms, and other edible treats.
This picture shows a turkey dust bath: retrieved from Nine Mile Prairie online.
You may not be an avid outdoor participant, bird watcher, or photographer, but take a few moments to step outside of your normal activities and witness a unique and clever bird that you might not otherwise get the chance to see!