A flock of wild turkeys walk single file along the deer trail through the woods. It will lead them to a newly picked cornfield. Although they are on the move they still keep one eye open for danger and the other on the constant lookout for food, maybe some weed seeds, an acorn or sprig of green grass or maybe some wild grapes. Food is less plentiful now and will become more so as the long winter wears on.
Community is the perfect answer for the turkeys. Together they find safety as there are many watchful eyes looking for danger. While some of the big birds are eating, others will stand guard. With necks stretched high they watch for any signs of ambush by a predator.
After filling their crops with yellow corn, the whole flock stands preening in the sunshine. They rouse their feathers into place and begin the upkeep on them. One at a time they pass a feather through their beak! The turkey has coated his beak with oil taken from an oil gland at the base of his tail. This oil will coat and protect the feather and his skin from the cold, wet weather.
Several of the flock staunchly stand guard as the rest are busy preening. Turkeys are the largest members of the family of birds known as grouse. When the snow comes the turkeys will scratch through snow to find acorns, then pluck buds and catkins from the low bushes. They pretty much eat what the deer are also foraging for. When the snow gets deep, unlike the deer, the turkeys can fly up into the branches of trees and dine on buds anywhere they wish.
Wild turkeys were reintroduced in southern Wisconsin in the early 1970s. Since then they have proven their resourcefulness and now flourish throughout the state.
I remember what it was like without these beautiful big birds around. Iím thankful to have been able to observe them for these past 30 years. They have brought much joy and knowledge to my life. I hope they will always come along on my walks down natureís trail.
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