Friday, January 25, 2013

Another turkey tale

Yesterday,  it was bitter cold again and the turkeys were all roosting on the branches of a felled tree near the feeding area. They conserve heat and energy that way.
I noticed one big tom suddenly become alert and crane his neck around. Seconds later, the entire bunch simultaneously popped up and jumped to the ground. They were all craning their necks and looking up. When I looked up to see what was causing this alarm, I saw a large hawk perched up at the top of the cottonwood tree. On either side of the hawk were crows loudly cussing out the intruder. This angry cawing of the crows is what tipped off the turkeys to the hawk's presence.
The hawk was no threat to the turkeys who are several times bigger than it is. Yet, they were greatly upset by having it sitting up in their tree. I gave some thought to why they were so threatened and constructed what I think is their history.

When I first spotted them last June, there were nine newly-hatched poults with the mother. She was cautious and I rarely saw them until later in the summer when there were two hens with a combined flock of twelve chicks. When the chicks were all mature, I couldn't tell the mothers from the rest anymore. By early fall, there was only a total of ten in the flock--two hens and eight young.

In late November another undersized hen suddenly appeared, apparently from another flock. This increased their total to eleven. She had an injured leg and always trailed behind the rest as they moved around the neighborhood. Happily, she recovered and walks fine but she's still smaller than the rest of them. It seems that while she's tolerated, she is not fully integrated into the flock.

When I consider all the chicks that went missing over the summer, it seems likely that all of the resident turkeys lost siblings or chicks to hawks and other predators. Their instincts tell them to beware of hawks and that fear kicks in whenever a hawk appears. It will stand them in good stead when they start their own families in the spring.
All photos from google images. If you care to read my earlier posts about the turkeys, just click on the label "Turkeys" below and they will come up in reverse order.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Turkeys in the wooded lot (again)

I have been in a winter slump lately and haven't been able to motivate myself to blog. I've posted a lot about the flock of wild turkeys that I've been feeding and observing. I have been wary of becoming too tiresome on the subject. However, it keeps coming up again.
Several weeks ago, a guy who lives four doors down from me in the same complex got mad about it. He came banging on my bedroom window in the early morning and proceeded to yell at me about turkeys (defecating) on his patio. I'm feeding them on the opposite side of the building from him in the wooded lot which belongs to the city. 

It's been terribly upsetting. If he'd approached me in a civilized manner it might not have been so bad. As it is, I feel vulnerable and threatened by his outrageous behavior. I contacted the condo association management company about it but nothing has been done so far. This grumpy 55-year-old neighbor lives alone ever since his girlfriend left him because of his bad temper. 

The eleven turkeys keep roosting up in the huge cottonwood tree in the wooded lot every wintry night. Last night it was 0 degrees Fahrenheit and very windy. They flew up to the top of the tree at sunset as usual. During the night, I could see the branches swaying in the wind as they rode it out. I feel so bad for them in this nasty weather that it would be terribly cruel to stop feeding them. 

I have not had a problem with turkeys using my patio as a toilet, but maybe it's a courtesy for all the tasty cracked corn and bread crumbs!                          (All photos from Google images)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013