110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Nature Scenes: Wild turkey’s head turns red when he’s ready to fight
By Lynn Bowen
posted Apr 28, 2014 - 8:42:26am
A bird feeder in my neighborhood feeds more than small birds, as you can see from the photo accompanying this column. On the day I took this picture, a wild turkey, a Muscovy duck, and a squirrel dined together. It all looked like a cartoon!
Wild turkeys live mainly in the eastern two-thirds of the U.S., and are very common here in Florida. They usually travel in large flocks in open woods with fields or clearings.
The average male wild turkey is about 46 inches long, and weighs about 16 pounds, while the females are 37 inches long and weigh about 9 pounds. However, turkeys in Florida tend to be smaller. The males have a fan-shaped tail and are larger than the females, who do not have a fancy tail.
The toms (males) have a beard about 9 inches long hanging from their chest, and the hens usually don’t. Occasionally a hen will have a thin, shorter beard.
Shades of iridescent brown and green plumage adorn wild turkeys’ plump bodies, but their heads and necks are featherless. A pinkish “wattle” hangs from the throat. The turkey’s pale head turns blue when the bird is excited and red when it’s ready to fight -- how interesting to know this!
Wild turkeys’ legs are strong and thick. The back of each foot has a wicked spur for defensive purposes. After all, these birds are not great fliers, and they need this weapon, in addition to the protection that their flock provides.
A wild turkey is good at ramming a predator with its large body or just running away from trouble. Turkeys can run up to 25 mph and fly short distances when necessary. Among their predators are raccoons, opossums, foxes, bobcats, snakes and raptors.
At breeding time, from February through May, a female wild turkey will incubate about 10 eggs in a ground nest located at the base of a tree or in a palmetto thicket. At that point, the polygamous male is out of the picture, but he’s just following his instinct.
A wild turkey forages with its short bill on the ground, seeking insects, seeds, fruits, nuts, snails and even lizards.
Wild turkeys roost in trees at night. The local ones are probably finding out from their feathered friends where to go tomorrow for an easy meal -- perhaps under a bird feeder!
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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