Friday, October 3, 2014

Pennsylvania Animals: Eastern Wild Turkey

Gobble, gobble, gobble. Do those words make you think about Thanksgiving? Besides the honorable holiday, turkeys remind me of a magazine article I once read by Peter Lord. He used the contrast between turkeys and eagles to teach spiritual truths.

Male turkeys are called gobblers and the females, hens. Gobblers grow to be about two and one-half feet tall, three to four feet long, and 25 pounds. Females are much smaller and weigh half as much. Males have spurs for fighting and beards up to twelve inches long. A few females also have beards. Only males gobble. Both sexes read more
yelp, cluck, whistle, and putt.

That pretty Thanksgiving turkey shown with its tail feathers fanned out? That is a male trying to attract a female. They are so adamant about gaining her attention that they fight other males over her.

The females during the nesting season lay an egg a day in a ground based nest until they have from eight to fifteen eggs. After the last one is laid, the female begins to sit on them. Each egg is pale yellow tan with reddish-brown spots and hatches in about 28 days. After hatching, the tiny poults don’t linger in the nest unless it is raining. Once dry from hatching, they leave with their mother. She takes care of them alone except in the winter when she and her partly grown children join other mothers and their offspring to form large flocks.

All turkeys have keen eyesight and hearing, can hide, swim, run up to 18 miles per hour, and fly 40 to 55 miles per hour. In the evening, they roost in trees. Their food includes plants and plant-produced food like nuts and fruit. Turkeys will also eat any kind of small creature that they can swallow.

Turkeys grew scarce in the early 1900s because of the intense hunting and the logging operations that destroyed their habitat. Experts estimated that in 1900, only 5000 birds remained in the state.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission worked hard to restore the birds by making refuges, laws, turkey farms, and planting more trees. The first turkey game farm opened in 1915. More than 200,000 birds grew up on these farms to be released into the wild between 1930 and 1980 when they closed the last state-owned turkey farm. Starting in 1960, a new approach began of trapping and transferring turkeys to other areas. In 2003, the trapping program stopped as it seemed the turkey population had recovered with an estimated 100,000 birds now in the woods of Pennsylvania.

I found that article Peter Lord wrote in the Nov-Dec. 1981 issue of Fulness Magazine. He also wrote a book called Turkeys and Eagles, still available in used condition. 

1 comment:

  1. Jim Osgood talked of Peter Lord often.

    Had a turkey cross my path just the other day while I was returning from Ben's house. We often see a flock of them in the fields near our house.