A normal person who moved into a house where wild turkeys wandered the backyard might be inclined to ignore them until they went away. A normal person, once these turkeys disappeared, might describe the parting as fortunate. But since moving into our house, replete with flock of wild turkeys, my family and I have done our darnedest to bond with these big birds.
In yesterday’s post about the dead turkey, I mentioned the males are beginning to display. So I thought I would elaborate with some photos.
If you are from Philly, then you know who the Mummers are. If you are not, then you are missing out! The Mummers are a Philly tradition. They are a collective of local neighborhood clubs composed historically of men; nowadays there are lots of women too. These guys & gals get together over the course of each year to put together elaborate costumes and routines for an annual New Year’s Day parade. Some of the Mummers play instruments, others are strictly theatrical. But all of the costumes are over the top. Think MORE is MORE.
Here is an elaborately costumed Mummer.
And here is one of the male turkeys in full display.
Being from Philly, I can’t help but think of the Mummers. The male turkeys glide across the yard like mini parade floats. They strut, they cluck, it’s crazy. They want these lady turkeys SO BAD! But the girls, quite honestly, don’t seem to want anything to do with them. I saw one female (she must be one of the hottie turkeys b/c the males were surrounding her, strutting & bobbing like mad) she practically flew across the yard to get away from them. And seriously, can you blame her? Just look at those big red sacs – can you imagine some dude following you round Target w/ a dangly scrotum stuck to his face?! YIKES!
Yesterday afternoon I had an appointment. When I left the house I noticed a bunch of turkeys in the backyard. Most of them were eating at the feeders, a few were standing around preening and/or dozing in the rain. A weird black mass lay several feet away from them, on the grass. It looked sort of like an empty trash bag. The day was gray and windy; perhaps something had blown out of the recycling bin? I was pressed for time, and the turkeys weren’t paying it any mind.. so I left. When I returned an hour later the turkeys were gone, but the *whatever it was* was still there. I squelched across the muddy yard to find..
A large male turkey sprawled stiff on the grass, surrounded by scattered feathers. He hadn’t been dead long. I wanted to touch him to see if he was still warm, but thought better of it. Frankly he looked a little scary. And I was in shock. I know these turkeys are wild creatures, but feeding them day after day, tossing them stale bread, addressing them as my “turkey friends” – well, they feel a lot more like family. I am so glad I hadn’t gotten round to naming any of the turkeys other than “Gimpy” (a small female w/ a bum leg). Makes it so much easier to say goodbye.
And so I did the only thing I could think of. I went and got a trash bag. NOT to dispose of the dead turkey – oh, no – but rather to move him to the ice drift by the back door of our house. As I said, he was a little scary (read, Bloody) and I was reluctant to simply pick him up and you know – touch him with my hands. I wrapped the bag around him like a blanket and cradled him in my arms. He was heavy and still. I felt the need to protect him. I don’t know why either – he was after all a dead turkey. But having him nearer to the house (without actually bringing him inside) felt right. It seemed like I was honoring his loss. He was some turkey’s son and I wanted to be respectful. I also wanted to ensure no other creatures would have their way with him before my husband got home and could check him out. The ice would help preserve him, and his proximity to the house would fend off intruders.
When my kids got home (along w/ one of my daughter’s best friends) I felt compelled to tell them what had happened and show them the body. They were grossed out and fascinated all at once. My husband, when he got home, was too. But all our dog wanted was to eat the poor beast, so we thought it best to dispose of him properly. So we did what anyone would do. We tossed him into the compost ravine. Well, more like “gently placed” him near the top of the compost ravine but slightly more in the yard so our neighborhood scavengers can use his body as food but we won’t have to watch it unless we want to. We are talking about a turkey here. Deliciousness itself. And since you’re surely wondering, Why Yes, my husband did at first suggest we eat him. Which struck me as equal parts savage and sensible, but altogether too messy for words. Having to pluck and clean this turkey out? No thanks. I myself considered dissection. I mentioned it to my older daughter, purely for scientific study. But we decided against that as well, more b/c of the mess than anything.
So, of course, the dead turkey reigned high on the list of last night’s topics of conversation. My husband suggested he was killed by a hawk. We do have several of them living in the woods behind us. But no savvy predator would kill and leave such a banquet behind. Besides, if it had been a hawk, the other turkeys would have been traumatized. Surely they would have FLED! not been stuffing their faces and napping. No, I knew this turkey had been killed by his comrade/s. Who had unleashed their fury, then turned to feast on the freebie buffet provided by yours truly..
Over the past few weeks, the males have begun warming up for spring. And by warming up I mean PUFFING UP. As in displaying. Like most testoterone ladden males of all species, the turkeys want the fairer sex to notice them. So they have been making themselves known by fluffing up their bodies, fanning their tail feathers (much like peacocks) and – well, to be honest, putting their manhood OUT THERE. Not their private parts, more like their public parts. Those sac things on their faces, those dangling gobblies, yep. Red as fire engines on some, swollen like (ahem) scrotums. This has been going on since the beginning of February. I actually noticed around the holidays the males faces looking redder & redder. Now it is even more pronounced. And like hormonal human males, some of them have taken this displaying even further. This weekend, John saw them fighting. Really going at it. But I’d never imagined they’d actually kill each other. SURPRISE!
A while back I posted about our Turkeys. WELL. Apparently wild turkeys LOVE snow. b/c right now it’s coming down in droves, and there are (I kid you not) FORTY wild turkeys in our backyard. How great is that?!
But here’s the trip. John just went out and – as well as scattering seed, left a big bowl of food in the middle of the yard. After all, these turkeys daily gorge themselves at our overflowing feeders. You’d think they’d delve right into a bowl, right? HAHAHHAHAHAHH!!
9 am and they just left. A family of fifteen. Talk about ANIMALS! By the end of the meal, they’d knocked a tray to the ground, there was food everywhere, and 2 of the kids were pooping in the bushes. And they didn’t even pay!! I turned my back for a minute and they’d run off. I’d try to catch them, but 6 ladies just walked in, there’s a group of 7 due any minute, and a party of 16 this afternoon. You’d think they’d have the courtesy to call in a reservation. But of course not. They are TURKEYS after all.
When some people buy a new house they inherit a lawn mower, or even furniture. But when we moved in, we got a whole flock of wild turkeys. The Dole House – our new home – sits atop a hill (Dole Mountain), overlooking a salt marsh, a portion of the Portland Trails hiking system and an Audubon refuge. And YES it is lovely. As the turkeys can attest. B/c daily, like clockwork, they make their way across the land & busy intersections to feast, roost, and do their turkey business in our yard.
These bird sandwiches have become an increasing point of fascination for our entire family. They’re so engrossing, in fact, that we now adjourn upstairs, or to the kitchen, for a good ole dose of (what we term) Turkey TV. All four of us – five including the dog – stand pressed against the windows gazing out in wonder at the prehistoric beasts littering our yard.
Each & every morning, and sometimes noon & night, I restock the buffet. We have twelve feeders. Several of them are empty w/in an hour or two of being filled.
So we’ve also taken to tossing them seed directly when they show up, much like chicken farmers.
I cannot tell you how funny it is, watching full-grown turkeys hustle up the hill towards us like domesticated pets. They’ve grown so accustomed to the routine, they barely even flinch when the dog comes out. They just keep boogie-ing round the yard on their turkey stilts. Keeping step w/ the sunflower seeds. Vacuuming up every morsel. And fighting.
That’s right. FIGHTING. I’d heard of turkey jerky, but never jerky turkeys. The mommas and babies, you can’t help but go Awwwwww.. but some of the bigger ones are just plain awful.
If I weren’t utterly opposed to firearms, I’d be out there shopping for Thanksgiving. Let’s face it. Turkeys are not the cutest most cuddly birds to begin with. Unless you’re an amorous turkey I’d be hard-pressed to find one appealing. But it’s even harder feeling the love for a big ass bird who’s pecking his much smaller sibling over some free grain. Especially when that trough of freedom overflows 7 days a week w/out fail. Listen up mean turkeys! You better get sweet, and soon, or we might be pulling out the mayo.