Saturday, October 19, 2013

Bird brains

There's a gang of four turkeys that's been hanging around my place lately. They always stick together, and they are disturbingly unperturbed by my proximity. They just stroll around the place lazily, going nowhere in particular. I seldom see them feeding. They're just out enjoying the weather.

Turkey social life is mysterious. You tend to see them much more in autumn than summer or winter. In the spring, you'll say hens with their young. (I don't think you call them chicks. What then?) Sometimes the hens go around in pairs, so the kids have an auntie. In autumn, you can see groups of any size, from a solitary individual to a field full of dozens or a hundred. I think the latter are special events, basically like mixer parties. The toms will be puffing themselves up and fanning their tails, hoping to get lucky. But the rest of the time, why they form the groups they do, how stable they are, and where they go in the winter and summer, I don't have a clue.

For you city slickers, these are nothing like the domesticated dolts. They're obviously smart enough to stay alive out here in the deep dark woods, and they can fly just fine. They don't go long distances, but they can get up in the air in a hurry when they need to.

It's well known that Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national symbol instead of the eagle. If he'd had his way, we might have a whole different attitude about ourselves.

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