Tag Archives: Meleagris gallopavo

POST FOR GMG FOB DAVE IN RESPONSE TO HIS QUESTION ABOUT WHY THERE WERE NO WILD TURKEYS ON CAPE ANN IN HIS YOUTH

eastern-wild-turkey-male-gloucester-ma-1-copyright-kim-smithGMG Reader Dave wrote recently saying that he did not recall seeing turkeys on Cape Ann when he was growing up. Although the Eastern Wild Turkey is native to Massachusetts, it was rarely seen after 1800 and was completely extirpated by 1851.

The Wild Turkey reintroduction to Massachusetts is a fantastic conservation success story and a tremendous example of why departments of conservation and protection are so vital to our quality of life.

Massachusetts was recently ranked the number one state by U.S. News and World Report and conservation stories like the following are shining examples of just one of the many zillion reasons why (healthcare and education are the top reasons, but conservation IMO is equally as important).

Reposted from the Wild Turkey FAQ page of the office of the Energy and Environmental Affairs website.

“At the time of Colonial settlement, wild turkeys were found nearly throughout Massachusetts. They were probably absent from Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, and perhaps the higher mountain areas in the northwest part of the state. As settlement progressed and land was cleared for buildings and agriculture, turkey populations diminished. By 1800, turkeys were quite rare in Massachusetts, and by 1851 they had disappeared.

Between 1911 and 1967 at least 9 attempts in 5 counties were undertaken to restore turkeys to Massachusetts. Eight failed (probably because of the use of pen-raised stock; and one established a very marginal population which persisted only with supplemental feeding.

In 1972-73, with the cooperation of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, MassWildlife personnel live-trapped 37 turkeys in southwestern New York and released them in Beartown State Forest in southern Berkshire County. By 1976, these birds had successfully established themselves and by 1978 this restoration effort was declared a success.

Beginning in 1978, MassWildlife began live-trapping turkeys from the Berkshires and releasing them in other suitable habitat statewide. Between 1979 and 1996, a total of 26 releases involving 561 turkeys (192 males, 369 females) were made in 10 counties (see the following Table and the accompanying map).

turkey-trans-map

Turkey Transplants within Massachusetts
1979-1996
Location Town County Year Number (Sex)
Hubbardston State Forest Hubbardston Worcester 1979, 1981 22 (10M, 12F)
D.A.R. State Forest Goshen Hampshire 1981-82 14 (6M, 8F)
Mt. Toby State Forest Sunderland Franklin 1982 22 (7M, 15F)
Holyoke Range Granby Hampshire 1982 24 (8M, 16F)
West Brookfield State Forest West Brookfield Worcester 1982-83 24 (12M, 12F)
Miller’s River Wildlife Management Area Athol Worcester 1982-83 24 (11M, 13F)
Koebke Road Dudley Worcester 1983 25 (7M, 18F)
Groton Fire Tower Groton Middlesex 1984 21 (10M, 11F)
Rocky Gutter Wildlife Management Area Middleborough Plymouth 1985-86 25 (12M, 13F)
Bolton Flats Wildlife Management Area Bolton Worcester 1986-87 24 (8M, 16F)
Naushon Island Gosnold Dukes 1987 22 (6M, 16F)
John C. Phillips Wildlife Sanctuary Boxford Essex 1988 21 (9M, 12F)
Fall River-Freetown State Forest Fall River Bristol 1988 24 (11M, 13F)
Baralock Hill Groton Middlesex 1988 16 (5M, 11F)
Camp Edwards Army Base Bourne/Sandwich Barnstable 1989 18 (6M, 12F)
Jones Hill Ashby Middlesex 1990 20 (7M, 13F)
Whittier Hill Sutton Worcester 1990 22 (9M, 13F)
Conant Brook Reservoir Monson Hampden 1991 27 (3M, 24F)
Bradley Palmer State Park Topsfield Essex 1991 18 (1M, 17F)
Hockomock Swamp and Erwin Wilder WMA West Bridgewater Plymouth 1992-93 24 (5M, 19F)
Slade’s Corner Dartmouth Bristol 1993 23 (10M, 13F)
Wendell State Forest Wendell Franklin 1993 19 (4M, 15F)
Facing Rock Wildlife Management Area Ludlow Hampden 1994 8 (1M, 7F)
Peterson Swamp Wildlife Management Area Halifax Plymouth . 1994 26 (11M, 15F)
Cape Cod National Seashore Wellfleet Barnstable 1995-96 28 (5M, 23F)
Terrybrooke Farm Rehoboth Bristol 1996 20 (8M, 12F)
Totals 561; (192M, 369F)

 

By 1996, turkeys were found in Massachusetts about everywhere from Worcester County westward, except in the immediate vicinity of Springfield and Worcester. Good populations are also now found in suitable, but more fragmented, habitats in Bristol, Essex, Middlesex, and Plymouth Counties. On Cape Cod, Barnstable County, turkeys may be found on and near the Massachusetts Military Reservation and the Cape Cod National Seashore. These birds have also moved northward from releases in Plymouth County into southern Norfolk County. On Martha’s Vineyard, wild-strain birds are absent; however, feral pen-raised birds may be found over much of the island. Turkeys are absent from Nantucket and Suffolk Counties. The average statewide fall turkey population is about 18,000-20,000 birds.

Land-use changes have historically influenced the population and distribution of the wild turkey and other wildlife. Such changes will continue to affect the natural environment. For a historical perspective, see the references by Cardoza (1976) and Cronon (1983).”eastern-wild-turkey-males-8-gloucester-ma-copyright-kim-smith

TURKEY BROMANCE

eastern-wild-turkey-males-gloucester-ma-6-copyright-kim-smithConferring

From far across the marsh, large brown moving shapes were spotted. I just had to pull over to investigate and was happily surprised to see a flock of perhaps a dozen male turkeys all puffed up and struttin’ their stuff. I headed over to the opposite side of the marsh in hopes of getting a closer look at what was going on.

eastern-wild-turkey-female-foraging-gloucester-ma-copyright-kim-smith

Turkey hen foraging 

Found along the edge, where the marsh met the woodlands, were the objects of desire. A flock of approximately an equal number of hens were foraging for insects and vegetation in the sun-warmed moist earth.

eastern-wild-turkey-males-3-gloucester-ma-copyright-kim-smith

Males begin exhibiting mating behavior as early as late February and courtship was full underway on this unusually warm February morning. The funny thing was, the toms were not fighting over the hens, as you might imagine. Instead the males seemed to be paired off, bonded to each other and working together, strategically placing themselves in close proximity to the females. A series of gobbles and calls from the males closest to the females set off a chain reaction of calls to the toms less close. The last to respond were the toms furthest away from the females, the ones still in the marsh. It was utterly fascinating to watch and I tried to get as much footage as possible while standing as stone still for as long as is humanly possible.eastern-wild-turkey-males-gloucester-marsh-copyright-kim-smith

With much curiosity, and as soon as a spare moment was found, I read several interesting articles on the complex social behavior of Wild Turkeys and it is true, the males were bromancing, as much as they were romancing.

Ninety percent of all birds form some sort of male-female bond. From my reading I learned that Wild Turkeys do not. The females nest and care for the poults entirely on her own. The dominant male in a pair, and the less dominant of the two, will mate with the same female. Wild Turkey male bonding had been observed for some time however, the female can hold sperm for up to fifty days, so without DNA testing it was difficult to know who was the parent of her offspring. DNA tests show that the eggs are often fertilized by more than one male. This behavior insures greater genetic diversity. And it has been shown that bromancing males produce a proportionately greater number of offspring than males that court on their own. Poult mortality is extremely high. The Wild Turkey bromance mating strategy produces a greater number of young and is nature’s way of insuring future generations.

The snood is the cone shaped bump on the crown of the tom’s head (see below).eastern-wild-turkey-male-snood-caruncles-gloucester-ma-2-copyright-kim-smith

The wattle (or dewlap) is the flap of skin under the beak. Caruncles are the wart-like bumps covering the tom’s head. What are referred to as the “major” caruncles are the large growths that lie beneath the wattle. When passions are aroused, the caruncles become engorged, turning brilliant red, and the snood is extended. The snood can grow twelve inches in a matter of moments. In the first photo below you can see the snood draped over the beak and in the second, a tom with an even longer snood.

eastern-wild-turkey-male-close-up-gloucester-ma-copyright-kim-smithIt’s all in the snood, the longer the snood, the more attractive the female finds the male.

eastern-wild-turkey-male-snood-extended-carnuckle-gloucester-ma-10-copyright-kim-smith

eastern-wild-turkey-male-gloucester-ma-copyright-kim-smitheastern-wild-turkey-male-gloucester-ma-9-copyright-kim-smithMale Turkey not puffed up and snood retracted.

A young male turkey is called a jake and its beard is usually not longer than a few inches. The longer the beard, generally speaking, the older the turkey.eastern-wild-turkey-male-beard-gloucester-ma-copyright-kim-smithMale Wild Turkey, with beard and leg spurs.eastern-wild-turkey-males-snood-extended-retracted-gloucester-ma-copyright-kim-smith

Male Wild Turkeys with snood extended (foreground) and snood retracted (background).

eastern-wild-turkey-male-tail-feathers-gloucester-ma-copyright-kim-smithWhen the butt end is prettier than the face

8643866_orig

 

In case you are unsure on how to tell the difference between male (called tom or gobbler) and female (hen), compare the top two photos. The tom has a snood, large caruncles, carunculate (bumpy) skin around the face, and a pronounced beard. The hen does not. Gobblers also have sharp spurs on the back of their legs and hens do not.

 

turkeycharacteristics

Read more here:

http://www.alankrakauer.org/?p=1108

http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2005/03/02_turkeys.shtml

http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dfw/fish-wildlife-plants/wild-turkey-faq.html

TURKEY ON THE RUN!

What a delightful surprise to see this young turkey in our hood. I imagine they are ubiquitous, but it’s only the second time that I know of that they have been seen perusing Plum Street. My husband thinks she slept in our garden the previous night. Wild turkey Gloucester Massachusetts Meleagris gallopavo c Kim Smith

Hungry, fearful, and on the run, she didn’t stay very long.

Wild turkey Gloucester Massachusetts Meleagris gallopavo -2 c Kim Smith

STRUTTIN’ HIS STUFF!

A face only a Mother could love ~Wild Turkey male close up wattle, caruncle, snood Kim Smith 2016

Male turkey’s faces are brilliantly colored red, white, and blue and change color depending on what mood. A solid white head indicates the most excited.

Wild Turkey male Courtship display Kim Smith 2016

There were three males courting in this group, with one being the dominant Tom. To attract the females, the males were spreading their tail feathers (called strutting) and spitting. Group courtship like this usually takes place after the winter months in March and April, when they are still flocked together.

Wild Turkey male female Tom pea Courtship display Kim Smith 2016Tom and Hen Eastern Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey male female Tom pea Courtship display -2 Kim Smith 2016

Anatomy_of_turkey_headAnatomy of a Turkey Head

1) Caruncles

2) Snood

3) Wattle (dewlap)

4) Major caruncle

5) Beard

Notice the small light tan colored holes to the right of the eye in both the above photo and the top photo. That is the Tom’s ears with which he can hear quite well.

The photo below is not tack sharp so I almost didn’t post however, it demonstrates that this turkey is comparatively more excited as his face is more white and blue than the turkey in the first photo. And you can see the ear quite clearly in this photo, too.

Wild Turkey male close up wattle, ear, snood, caruncle Kim Smith 2016

Domestic turkey photo courtesy wiki.

Baby Turkey Encounter!

Turey baby poult ©Kim Smith 2014A baby turkey is called a poult.

Turkey baby poult hen ©kim Smith 2014Where was the Tom?

This little turkey family seemed so vulnerable. Although blending well with the surrounding vegetation, the hen was disabled. She was only able to half walk, half hop. Despite her injury, she kept close watch over the babies as they foraged. I was especially surprised that no Tom came charging to protect the flock, which has been my experience with past turkey encounters.

Turkey baby poults ©Kim Smith 2014

Turkey baby poult flying ©Kim Smith 2014.Turkey babies poult hen ©kim Smith 2014.Turkey Hen and Poults

The Cherry Street Gang (of Turkeys)

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

The turkeys populating Cape Ann are descended from wild-trapped New York birds. By 1851, the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) was extirpated from Massachusetts because of widespread loss of habitat and hunting. Nine unsuccessful attempts to reestablish the birds were made between 1911 and 1967. Between 1972 and 1973, 37 birds were released in Berkshire County. The bird’s range quickly expanded, establishing populations from the western to the furthest eastern regions of Massachusetts. To read more about the Wild Turkey visit the Massachusetts Audubon Breeding Bird Atlas