Sunday, March 27, 2011

gobble gobble

The other day I came downstairs for my morning coffee and whoa! There was a huge flock of turkeys in the yard. I couldn't begin to count them, there were at least two dozen. The toms were puffing themselves up and fanning their tails, which as I understand it means this was equivalent to a singles bar or the freshman mixer. They look pretty impressive when they do this, almost twice normal size. Unfortunately, the instant I stepped out to try to photograph them they bolted, so no pix to show you.

I understand that this kind of group courtship is typical, but not nearly in such a large group. According to the Wikipedia article, they commonly court in pairs.

Anyway, leaving aside this mysterious mass congregation, Ben Franklin famously proposed the turkey, rather than the eagle, as our national symbol. This probably seems strange to city slickers who think of the turkey as the moronic domestic mutant variety, of which it is said that if they happen to be looking up when it starts to rain, they will drown. Real turkeys obviously have to survive in a woodland filled with coyotes, bobcats, raccoons and foxes, not to mention human hunters, and they're nobody's fool. They can fly quite agilely although they prefer to run around on the ground. They sometimes sit in trees, and they can clamber around in the branches pretty well.

If we had adopted the turkey rather than the eagle, would our national character be less belligerent? The eagle was also the symbol of imperial Rome, and today it embodies our militancy and self-satisfaction with aggression and warmaking prowess. Turkeys, on the other hand, are big galoots, successful at making their own way but determined not to bother anyone else.

1 comment:

  1. Unless you mess with their chicks.

    I was walking my dogs one day along the usual loop through the woods when I saw a turkey hen up ahead. She didn't flee as we moved towards her, and I thought, "That's strange! But there are some critters less shy of humans and dogs, so maybe she's one of them. Neat!" As we got yet closer, she puffed up her feathers, just as I caught a glimpse of some chicks scattering behind me. Oops! So there's a ticked off mom and my dogs and I were between her and her babies. I thought okay, let's see what happens if I turn around to leave.

    Yup! She charged me and the dogs, so I turned to face her, not knowing whether she's use her rather impressive claws to make her point. We were at an impasse. I finally decided that I was going to have to frighten her momentarily to get past, so I just ran towards her, dogs at my side, and she got out of the way rather quickly. Once we were past, she was able to gather her chicks and we finished our walk unmolested.

    What a thrill so see so many turkeys right outside your house! See, there is a reward for putting up with the snow and mud and blackflies and ticks!