Wild Turkey

It is Thanksgiving here in the States and turkey is the core of the traditional meal. Turkeys were widespread in colonial times but habitat loss eliminated them from Massachusetts by 1851. A small flock was captured in New York and released into the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts in the 1970s. There are now about 35000 birds in the state. These three have established the area around my home as their territory.

They are a large bird and the males, Toms, can get to weigh as much as 25 pounds. They can be aggressive and the Tom in this group will stand his ground if I am around and only reluctantly walk away. While their domesticated cousins may spend the holiday surrounded by mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce, these lucky birds get to live in an area full of oak trees with plentiful acorns and with people’s bird feeders. The Tom was eying me when I took these photos of them under feeders, as if to say “Don’t make me move!”.

They are also lucky to live in an area where they cannot be hunted due to human population density. And the only natural predators that can take them on and that are common near me are Coyotes and Great Horned Owls. However, a Red-tailed Hawk tried his luck recently and I managed to get my camera in time for this quick shot through a closed, screened window. The hawk apparently went after a pair of turkeys and then realized that he had bitten off more than he could chew. He ended up trapped against a stone wall under a small evergreen with the turkeys eying him closely. The size difference is obvious in the picture.

The turkeys walked away when I went outside to try for a better photo and the hawk was able to escape. The plumage confirmed that it was a juvenile, unharmed and hopefully a little wiser for the experience.

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