Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The One that Got Away...


Comfortably past the Thanksgiving holiday, and the nationwide hunger for turkey meat, this wild bird happily scans the ground for its own feast. Turkeys are native to the United States, but I have only spotted them on the local scene in the last decade or so. John James Audubon wrote about his observations back East, in the early 1800s. Apparently, the tasty bird was so successfully introduced to the Old World around the 16th century, that confusion arose over its origins. Europeans gave it the name of the Turks, and the Turks gave it a name meaning "of India" (hindi)!

Okay, it wasn't just one on the hillside along Highway 20. They look a bit like something from Jurassic Park:



All right, so maybe it was more like twenty that got away. This appears to be a flock of gobblers (males), all done with breeding for the year (I read that in the Audubon link):

12 comments:

Babzy said...

At first i couldn't see the bird in the first photo ;) but it appears when i enlarged it !Beautiful , i like to see birds in their natutal environment

Bibi said...

I see him! A question: I know/believe turkeys are indigenous to the New World, but you say they were introduced there in the 16th century...by whom and from where? Help!

Amy Wachspress said...

Wild Turkeys. AAARGH! They drive me insane, digging up and destroying everything in their wake! Here, read my story about how turkeys robbed me of my peace of mind:
http://amywpensieve.blogspot.com/2008/11/ornithological-threats-to-my-sanity.html

Ron Bloomquist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laurie said...

I have never seen a wild turkey before now! Nice "neener neener neener" post for apres-Thanksgiving! I realized this year that I don't even really LIKE turkey as a food. Neither does my husband or daughter, so we might end up starting a new Thanksgiving tradition. We already make our own traditional Christmas vegetarian curry!

I'm rambling.

Great post, Elaine, as always.

Dina said...

You're so lucky! I'd love to see twenty wild and free turkeys.
Hebrew also calls a turkey "tarnegol Hodu," a chicken of India.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Elaine, I'm with you. Turkeys are "Newcomers" to California.

But.... From the net.

"turkey, common name for a large game and poultry bird related to the grouse and the pheasant. Its name derives from its “turk-turk” call. Turkeys are indigenous to the New World; American fossils date back 40 million years to the Oligocene. The Mexican turkey, taken to Europe in the 16th cent. by the conquistadors, is the original of the domestic race. The wild eastern turkey, Meleagris gallapavo, was common in New England at the time of the Pilgrims, but has been exterminated there and now ranges from New York to Missouri. Commercial operations produced 260 million turkeys in the United States in 1989. Wild turkeys are woodland birds, gregarious except at breeding time. They are nonmigratory, although they are good fliers. Like pheasants, they are polygamous, and the male, who eats little during courtship, depends at this time on a fatty breast appendage for nourishment. The female alone builds the nest on the ground; she lays 8 to 15 eggs per clutch and also broods the young. The colorful ocellated turkey, Agriocharis ocellata is found in Central America. Turkeys are classified in the phylum hordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Galliformes, family Meleagrididae."

Petrea said...

Free range turkey! I've never seen them. Very cool post.

Kym said...

Hunters introduced them into our area about ten-fifteen years ago. There was a program that encouraged people to release the young turkeys into the wild. I imagine your flocks came from the same source.

USelaine said...

Babzy - I don't know how close they would tolerate me lurking, so I stayed by the road.

Bibi - They were introduced to the Old World at that time, by the returning colonial conquistadors I suppose. (Well, Ernie's post took the words out of my mouth!)

Amy - The native California quail practically destroyed a planting of flowers and perennials I put in at my mom's years ago! They like to dig out dust-bath basins in the newly turned clay soil up there, but my mom always takes "their side", and proceeds to feed them!

Laurie - Well, that leaves your feast tradition wide open to your creativity! Spanakopita? Tamales? Get ready to ramble, I say!

Dina - They used to be shy. Now, not so much! I've never seen one all puffed up though.

Ernie - I've heard that explanation too, but "the net" is full of speculation on the origin of their name, so I guess nobody really knows! Just because I've been to Turkey, I'm going with that story. 6^) You can't make me say different.

P - It's a regular fantasy island up here. You wouldn't believe it. 8^)

Kym - That splains it then. That's how we ended up with those destructive wild pigs too. I'd rather eat these birds, but they look awfully skinny.

Thanks for hunting and pecking for me here, folks!

Kris said...

But do they frolic?

USelaine said...

They mostly linger, then mosey.