Thursday, May 26, 2022

Bird watching: The wild turkey can be spectacular


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 fan-shaped 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.

Chris Baird
Chris Baird
Chris is a family man with a beautiful wife and four kids. Three Girls, One Boy. He enjoys playing basketball, being outdoors, and the old normal.
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