What Are the Turkeys Doing?

For Lamp Post “It’s Easy Being Green”

by Barbara Walvoord

What Are the Turkeys Doing?land 6 14 14 024

The metaphorical turkeys–the government, the military-industrial complex, the big banks, and so on–are of course running the country right into the ground, as we all know. But the actual turkeys at Lathrop are busy doing their thing. We’ve spotted them lately around our houses and fields. I saw one on June 14, down behind the houses on Spiceberry. She came out of a thicket into the field and pecked around on the ground for bugs and seeds, raising her head frequently to look around, in that herky-jerky way, like a wind-up duck. When I approached with my camera, she flapped her wings and took off back into the woods. What’s she doing? Well, the National Wild Turkey Federation helps us find out. http://www.nwtf.org/all_about_turkeys/wild_turkey_facts.html.

She’s done mating by now. Been there, done that, in February, March, or April. The guy is long gone. She’s made a nest in a shallow depression among the shrubs, and laid an egg a day for 10-12 days. She’s sat on those eggs for 28 long, long days and nights, turning and rearranging them occasionally to spread the warmth and make the nest look a little less boring. When the eggs hatched, she had to hurry the youngsters as fast as any Mom on a school morning. Poults must be ready to leave the nest within 12-24 hours to begin finding their own seeds and bugs to eat. Junior, will you HURRY it UP??!!

Possibly, our turkey Mom has had to deal with heart-break, as our bobcat, one of our coyotes or foxes, or the hawk that roosts behind Huckleberry Lane ate one of her eggs or babies.

But despite the occasional tragedy, and the fact that life in the wild is always a nerve-racking, herky-jerky existence, our turkey Mom likes it here. In 1900, there were only 30,000 of her kind in the U.S., and extinction threatened. Now she’s one of 7 million. A tax on hunters has been used to restore wild turkey habitat (see, taxes CAN do some good). However, turkey numbers are declining again because of loss of habitat. We are great turkey habitat here at Lathrop, which is why she’s here, and thriving. Turkeys need a mix of woods, shrubs, and fields. Check. That’s us. They need the insects that depend on native plants. We have many non-native plants at Lathrop that do not support our insects, but we also have many natives, and we are working to nurture our native plants, the bugs that depend on them, the turkeys that depend on the bugs, the bobcat that depends on the turkeys, and, well, you get the idea.

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