The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 18, 2007


Turkey tales (tails)

The terrible male turkey of Nowell Farme Road, often in full display, is a feathered alarm clock. He gobbles loudly just after dawn, while his two females munch goodies on my landscaping mulch and nibble on the junipers. I didn't know they were vegetarians!
This male wild turkey gobbles loudly at dawn and runs down the hill chasing cars. (Photo by Joan Rolfe)
One female is so tame that she doesn't mind if I go out the door and approach her quite closely. I scold her when she is nibbling the junipers (when I catch her at it) looking at me with those peculiar pointy head movements and a very beady eye, and she saunters away, not very frightened at all. She knows she'll be back. My hope is that I can eventually train her away from the junipers. Not much hope on that score—because . . . I was recently at Boston's Museum of Science at the biology exhibit. One display had the brain sizes of some birds and mammals. The turkey brain is approximately an inch and a half long and half an inch wide for that huge body. I am hoping she (and the others) don't even think about eating my flowers planted in containers. So much for training, but I'll keep at it.

The other day when she fled from my protestations, she calmly paused in the driveway seeking another green treat which was much more acceptable to me — new dandelion greens which she eagerly snapped up. If she wants to be my personal weed-killer in the driveway, that would be fine with me! On with the turkey training!

The turkey trot toward cars

The male turkey loves to chase and stop cars. I was going to the road down my 100-foot driveway when I noticed a feathered form racing down the hill towards the car, along side and then in front! I stopped instantly and watched him prancing around. When I started to advance slowly, he protested and continued to impede my way. I honked several times and kept advancing. He was then beside my car door, and I yelled for him to go. Then I raced the car up to the street and he was running right behind the car. Another surprise — turkeys can run quite fast! When I turned into the street, he again blocked my way in full display. At that moment, a police cruiser drove up and stopped. I rolled down the window and laughingly told him of my turkey adventure. The turkey was now in the rear, so I made a quick, safe getaway, leaving the police car to deal with the auto-chasing bird. Hope he got away okay.

The next day I called the Audubon Society, who are the experts in animal behavior, and was told that this is a very common occurrence with turkeys, and they get quite a few calls about it. I was surprised to learn that it is a perfectly natural thing for a male turkey to do.

A few days later I was in the driveway picking up pinecones, when I saw an SUV stopped and honking loudly. Sure enough, our resident turkey was attacking his vehicle and would not let him pass. I ran up the driveway, grabbed a long stick on the way and proceeded to yell and scare him to one side. I then beat the ground behind him, which caused him to retreat into the forest. The grateful man gestured to thank me for the rescue as he drove off. His young child in the car thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing.

These permanent residents, (I regretfully realize the permanent part!) fly up in the white pines to about 50 feet where they roost every night. It is quite a sight, with their very large wings and bodies silently ascending to a good high branch. Their silhouettes show them preening and settling down for the night.

The funny part is that I really love all the animals that we have in Carlisle, especially these giant feathered friends. Who needs TV! (It's a good thing we don't have ostriches or emus, or they would be here too.)

This will be the third year that I have had the turkey zoo. However, if they are breeding and laying more eggs, the young ones may be around too, and get attached to the place — horrors! I have not seen baby turkeys in other years, but maybe this year some will appear. My digital camera is waiting.

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito