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Posts Tagged ‘turkey’

I am more of a liberal arts guy than a scientist, so the details of bird identification often escape me. Sue of the Back Yard Biology blog, on the other hand, is a self-avowed “geeky science nerd.” She decided to do some work to find out how to tell the age of a wild turkey. I suspect that many of you will find her posting as fascinating as I did, so be sure to click on the View Original Post in order to see her entire posting.

Be sure also to check out other postings on her wonderful blog. Sue is one of my most faithful followers and was one of the first to comment on my earliest postings more than seven years ago.

Back Yard Biology

It’s that time again, when tom Turkeys begin to strut their stuff in the backyard.  The other day, a FB friend/fellow wildlife photographer posted a shot of a tom turkey (https://michaelqpowell.com/2020/03/22/panic-or-calm/) that looked quite a bit different than the one I have been seeing in my backyard.  I thought it looked younger, but I wondered how one can tell the age of male wild Turkey.  So, I googled that thought, and it turns out it’s not a hard thing to do (assuming you can judge lengths somewhat accurately).

The key things to look for are the length of the beard (the hair-like structures — which are modified feathers) hanging down from its breast), the color of the tip of the beard, and the length of the spurs on the back of the lower-most part of its leg next to the foot (the tarsometatarsus to be exact).

It’s still early in…

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Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) reacted in different ways yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge when they detected my presence. One turkey seemed to panic, put down its head, and sprinted to the other side, while the other calmly strode across the trail. Both reached the other side safely. Was this the turkey version of social distancing?

How do you react in the face of a perceived threat? These days, this question is not merely an academic one—it is part of our daily lives. I think we all experience moments of panic, but we can choose not to let those feelings overwhelm us. Stay safe and healthy within the limits imposed on you by the current crisis and be sure to take care of yourselves.

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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Most of the times when I see Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, they are foraging in the open along one of the trails. As I approach, they usually disappear deep into the vegetation.

At this time of the year, though, I can see a lot farther into the woods than when there are leaves on the trees. Occasionally now I can get a glimpse of the turkeys moving about in the distance. I was happy to capture these head shots last week of one of the local turkeys as it popped in and out of view.

wild turkey

wild turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I spotted this Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) roosting low in a tree at the edge of a trail last Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I was initially happy to be able to get a shot. As I got closer, though, I was saddened to see that the turkey appeared to be injured or more likely suffering from a disease.

I was initially alerted to the presence of a ranger who drove past me heading in the opposite direction in a truck. I was sure that the passing of the truck had spooked the turkey and was surprised to see that it was still there as I silently moved closer. I noted small movements by the turkey, so I could tell that it was alive, but the extent of the damage to its face made me wonder if it could see. I quickly took the first two shots and departed.

When I circled back an hour later, I could see that the turkey had changed positions, but was still perched in the tree. I could now see that the damage to the other side of its face was equally severe. I worry about the survivability of this injured/sick wild turkey.

 

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I accidentally spooked a small flock of wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and one of them flew up into a tree in the middle of a field. I waited patiently and captured these shots when the turkey finally flew out of the tree. As you probably have noticed, the images are not in chronological order—I decided to lead with the two shots in which the turkey is in the air, which I think are the most dramatic images, and finish with the shot in which the turkey was starting to take off.

I was shooting almost straight into the sun, which is why the turkey is mostly a silhouette and the images seem like they were shot in black and white.

wild turkey

wild turkey

wild turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I do not know where the Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) were hiding, but I don’t think that I spotted a single one all summer. All of the sudden they seem to be back and I have seen them repeatedly during my most recent visits to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

During most of my encounters, I have spotted them in the distance, pecking away at the side of the trail. Before I can get within camera range, they usually sense my presence and waddle into the undergrowth. I was fortunate, however, to capture a shot of this one turkey who had lingered in the open a bit longer than his compatriots.

Wild Turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I was thrilled to get a glimpse of this impressive-looking Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I have seen Wild Turkeys at this refuge on numerous occasions, but this is one of the first images that I have been able to capture this spring.

I am always amazed when I come upon a male turkey displaying his feathers. I grew up in the suburbs of Boston and the only turkeys that I ever saw were those in the freezer at the supermarket, which did not look anything like this bird, and the cutout figures that we would pin to the wall to celebrate Thanksgiving. Somehow I always thought those cutouts were cartoonish caricatures—little did I know that wild turkeys actually look like those colorful figures.

wild turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this large Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) strutting about at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge this past weekend with about a dozen of his close friends. It was hard to get a group shot, so I focused instead on the largest turkey in the group and captured this image.

Wild Turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The vegetation at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge was so high recently that these two foraging wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) disappeared from view each time they leaned forward. It was like a game trying to figure out where they would pop up next. I played the game for for quite some time before I was able to capture them both in a single frame with their eyes visible—in most of the other shots the turkeys were looking away from me.

wild turkeys

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This past Monday I spotted this Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as it basked in the warmth of the early morning sunlight. Earlier this year I would see turkeys regularly as I walked the trails at the wildlife refuge, but the last couple of months such sightings have been rare.

wild turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was amazed and thrilled yesterday when I spotted an impressively large male Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) putting on a showy display at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge near the edge of an open field. I suspect the lady turkeys were impressed too.

I have seen wild turkeys multiple times at this wildlife refuge, but generally it has been groups of females and their offspring. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, “Courting males gobble to attract females and warn competing males. They display for females by strutting with their tails fanned, wings lowered, while making nonvocal hums and chump sounds. Males breed with multiple mates and form all-male flocks outside of the breeding season, leaving the chick-rearing to the females.” I was not able to get close enough to hear any gobbling, but the visual display by itself was stunning.

Spring is the season for love and I will be on the lookout as more male birds try to outdo their competitors and find mates using their brilliant colors, musical calls, or elaborate courting rituals.

Wild Turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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This past Monday I was thrilled to catch a glimpse of several large wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) foraging in a field just off of the road early in the morning as I was driving into Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I stopped the car, grabbed my camera, and leaned out of the window, but was unable to frame a shot. I quietly got out of the car and was able to capture several images of one of them before they sensed my presence and scurried into the treeline and out of my sight.

wild turkey

wild turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I heard some rustling deep in the heavy brush this morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and then caught sight of some bright colors—it was a male wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) along with several females. Focusing manually, I managed to get this shot.

Although I would have liked to get an unobstructed view of this magnificent bird, I actually like the way that the blurry vegetation creates a soft vignette that draws the viewer to the head of the turkey.

Wild Turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Now that it is November, many Americans will start to think of turkeys, and in particular the ones that they will consume on Thanksgiving Day.  I have nothing against eating turkey, but I shudder to think of the conditions under which domesticated turkeys are raised—it is much more exciting to see Wild Turkeys in the wild.

As I wander the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I have gotten used to encountering small flocks of Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) from time to time at several different locations. One of the volunteers with whom I talked estimated that there are over a hundred Wild Turkeys within the 642 acres (2.6 sq km) of the refuge.

When I see them, the turkeys are usually foraging along the paths and in open areas of the woods. Most often the turkeys move into the woods as soon as they sense my presence, but occasionally I can move close enough to them to get shots of individual turkeys. Lighting is often a challenge, because the sunlight filtering through the trees creates bands of intense light and shadows.

Here are a couple of my favorite shots from this past Monday—I really like the display of feathers in the first image and the regal upright pose in the second shot.

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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A small flock of wild turkeys yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge moved off of the trail and into the woods as I approached. Peering through the vegetation a few seconds later, I was able to catch a glimpse of one of them that may have though it was well hidden.

It would be hard for me to say that Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are beautiful, but they sure do have a distinctive look.

wild turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I looked down one of the trails yesterday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I spotted a group of large birds sprawled across the entire width of the trail. Having seen Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) a couple of times at this refuge, I correctly identified them, but I couldn’t figure out what they were doing. I later learned from the website of the National Wild Turkey Federation that wild turkeys use dust baths as part of their preening and plumage maintenance.

wild turkey

I tried to be stealthy and moved quietly forward, but the trail was wide and clear and the turkeys became aware of my presence. The flock slowly moved away— several of the turkeys flapped their wings to get a little additional momentum. I was uncertain if wild turkeys can fly and was surprised to learn from one internet source that wild turkeys can fly swiftly, with a maximum speed of 55 miles per hour (88 kph) and can run up to 25 mph (40 kph).

wild turkey

After a brief period of frantic movement, the birds settled down and began to forage. They seemed a little confused and looked around in different directions. When I got a bit closer, they eventually decided to move into the woods and did so in a rather leisurely fashion.

wild turkey

I could not tell for certain, but it looked to me that this flock of turkeys was made up of females and juveniles—I did not see any of the turkeys that look like the stereotypical male turkeys that are featured in the run-up to Thanksgiving. I will be alert for any sign of those males during future trips to this wildlife refuge.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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