Bird­watch­ing:Thewild turk­ey­canbe­spec­tac­u­lar

Serve Daily - - EMPOWERING LIBERTY - By Ed Helmick

Mount Nebo has a sig­nif­i­cant wild turkey (Me­lea­gris gal­lopavo) pop­u­la­tion, and win­ter is a great time to view them. In the win­ter, the wild tur­keys con­gre­gate in larger groups in the lower val­leys and canyons, fa­vor­ing south-fac­ing slopes for warmer tem­per­a­tures and less snow. Dur­ing the past sev­eral weeks, my wife and I have been ob­serv­ing a flock of 50 to 60 wild tur­keys and we have learned a lot.

First of all, in my opin­ion, wild turkey heads are pretty ugly; of course, I am not a turkey. How­ever, their feath­ers are spec­tac­u­lar. The body feath­ers are black­ish or dark brown with the male hav­ing a more com­plex color scheme that in­cludes irides­cent tints of red, pur­ple, green, cop­per, bronze and gold. The fe­males are some­what duller in body color. The wing feath­ers have white bars which are very no­tice­able in flight. The tip of the fan­shaped tail is tan or buff col­ored. The male tur­keys are about a third larger than the fe­males and can weigh as much as 24 pounds.

An­other char­ac­ter­is­tic of the male is a “beard” grow­ing from the cen­ter of the breast. Wild tur­keys are big, bulky birds, and their wing span ranges from about four feet to al­most five feet. They tend to walk more than they fly and will fly when fright­ened, al­though they don’t fly very high.

Early morn­ing and late af­ter­noon are when the wild tur­keys can be seen for­ag­ing for food. They typ­i­cally feed on seeds, roots, in­sects and grasses. They can be seen in cow pas­tures and oc­ca­sion­ally can be­come a back­yard nui­sance. Wild tur­keys have been struck by ve­hi­cles while cross­ing our ru­ral roads and high­ways. Af­ter feed­ing, as the sun is set­ting, the birds roost in trees for pro­tec­tion from preda­tors. It is not un­com­mon to see 10 to 20 birds in a cot­ton­wood tree. If you are out in the coun­try­side this time of year, look for wild tur­keys. It can be a re­ward­ing sight.

Photo by Ed Helmick

Mount Nebo has is home to many wild tur­keys. In the win­ter, the tur­keys con­gre­gate in larger groups in the lower val­leys and canyons.

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