Wild Turkeys On Thanksgiving Day

A woodlot is a private area where a farmer grows trees for building material, fuel, or to harbor large wildlife until they are hunted, it may or may not have a fishing pond associated with it. On a dirt road running through a woodlot somewhere in the American Midwest in autumn a long, long time ago, I was looking for the pond where a farmer had said I could sit and relax for a moment in my travels, when I unexpectedly drove up on a flock of wild turkeys sunning themselves, dusting their feathers, and resting in the soft, fine, warm dirt of the infrequently traveled access road. I had always wanted to see wild turkeys! They looked magnificent! There were a few tall, round, iridescent young toms without the bright red facial wattles that they would develop later and more than a dozen tall, rangy, camouflaged hens with neat rows of feathers in lovely iridescent browns. Since I did not much care for the taste of the large and stringy bird when served up annually on Thanksgiving Day, and I admired this large bird’s tenacity in avoiding extinction as humans control more and more of the Earth, these wild turkeys* immediately had my admiration and sympathies.

With young woman exuberance, I hopped out of my vehicle to get a closer look, and it was a dream come true! I was finally seeing real wild turkeys, in the wild! I was close enough to smell them! Stinky. Then they jumped up, and I thought, Oh, this is disappointing, they will run away before I even get a good look at them, but no, they turned on me as one dusty flock of tall, avian avengers. At up to four foot tall, their heads reached as high as my chest, and their strong wings flapped with menace. (A bird’s wings are its arms and they are surprisingly strong for all those delicate feathers.) These wild turkeys were unsettled and ill-tempered birds, and I was invading their territory. The flock surged toward me! I was the one to squawk as I fled to my car, routed by a flock of turkeys. Seeing me run, the flock of turkeys whirled about and melted into the thick brush in a heartbeat.

I had finally seen American turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) and they were big, mean, aggressive birds. Powerful! Benjamin Franklin was right, the wild turkey would have been an excellent choice for our national bird, a proud emblem of the United States of America. On Thanksgiving Day, our annual national holiday celebrating the harvest and other blessings of the past year, I always think of my encounter with wild turkeys.

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* The turkey is the eighth heaviest bird in the world. This flighted bird weighs 29.8 – 86 pounds, is up to 4 feet tall, and is 3.3 – 4.1 feet long.

Caption: Screencapture from someone else’s tom turkey attack (two males)

by jdshilling44 12/13/2010

Caption: Magnificent Wild Young Tom Turkey

photograph by Robert Weselmann

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