Monday, February 15, 2021

Turkeys in the Snow

 I watched these turkeys on the Clark-Champaign County border for the better part of an hour. The big Tom courted the hen, but the Jakes (young males) put on a show of their own.

The color of a turkey's head and throat will change depending on his mood. When a male turkey is excited, his head will turn blue. When he is feeling stressed, his head will turn bright red. The color shifts and changes many times throughout the day as he feels various levels of stress and relaxation. This Tom feels pretty.....ummm, excited.

It's fairly common to see turkeys these days along woods edges and sometimes in open fields, but that wasn't the case until the last 30 years.
The wild turkey population in the United States declined from millions in colonial times to just 30,000 at the start of the 20th Century. Wild turkeys were extinct in Ohio by 1904.
After a failed attempt at releasing domestic turkeys into the wild, the turkey population in Ohio was reestablished in the mid-1950s by releasing about 1,400 wild turkeys that were captured in other states.
Through those efforts, the turkey population had grown enough that wildlife officials allowed the first statewide hunt of wild turkeys in 1986.
Wintering turkeys gather in big flocks with a dominate Tom. I've seen flocks of over 100 birds when they begin the gathering. By Feb in this area the Toms start strutting, fluffing their feathers, spreading a fan of tail feathers and gobbling to court the hens. She will lay anywhere from 4 to 17 eggs in the nest.
Actually there are six subspecies of turkeys. In Ohio we share the Eastern subspecies with most of the states east of the Rocky Mountains.
Turkeys like open forests with adjacent open areas. They like to feed early in the morning and again late in the day before flying to the trees to roost at night. They love acorns, beech nuts, pecans, hackberry, and the fruit of black cherry, wild grape, and spice bush.

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