It’s impossible to say how many people in the United States will be eating turkey for Thanksgiving this week, and but suffice it to say that there will be a lot! Most will be commercially grown, a few from local farms or raised at home, and even a few turduckhens (a deboned chicken stuffed in a deboned duck which is then stuffed in a deboned turkey). I’m really curious, though, about how many will be wild turkeys. I doubt I’ll ever know, but I know I won’t be eating one of my feral ‘pets!’
There are thousands of wild turkeys here in western Oregon, including the neighborhood flock I’ve watched grow from a few hens and their chicks. Yes, we stop on the road for the foraging birds who will fly short distances when spooked. They make the same ‘gobble gobble’ noise we’ve heard the barnyard variety make. The males do display their tail feathers to impress the females, but I’ve only seen that in the spring when the toms are trying to impress the hens. By the way, the young males are called jakes and look a lot like hens.
A few things I didn’t know: there are six species of Melegaris gallapavo in the US. All of them have keep eyesight and hearing, but have a poor sense of smell. Although their preferred foods are grasses, seeds, berries, and insects, they love creepy crawlies (including snakes and salamanders). They also eat wild flower seeds and quail eggs, and scratch up the ground thoroughly, so some folks consider them a pest. My high ‘deer proof’ fence keeps them out of my yard and garden, but sometimes I wish I could bring them in for a day or three, just so they could eat my arch enemies, slugs! I’d definitely open my gates for a few days if they ate moles and gophers! Since they don’t eat furry vermin, I’ll simply enjoy watching and hearing the moving scenery of the biggest ground bird native to his area: the wild turky.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving meal and be glad it’s not this wily bird. Because they’re so active, their meat is tough..
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