Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) have been honored guests here for many years now, and it was a privilege to see them during their recent visit right before Christmas. As is their custom, they tend to show up seemingly out of nowhere, stay a few days and then disappear. This afternoon, as dusk was falling on New Year's Eve, they appeared again.
Their appearances and disappearances are not nearly as random as they seem. Wild turkeys wander through large territories and remember areas where food, water and nesting sites are plentiful. Often, those that seem to disappear have simply flown up into the trees to roost for the night. I recently discovered that a flock that I thought had left abruptly after spending the afternoon in my woods was actually right above me, roosted high in a towering oak near the house. Watching them slowly rouse the next morning and begin to look lively as I spread seed for the songbirds and filled the birdbaths was akin to preparing breakfast for a hungry bunch of kids.
The debate continues as to whether allowing these wild birds access to supplemental feed is wise, but since their visits here in winter are rare, I don't consider it an issue. I am also mindful that as these birds and other wildlife continue to lose their native habitat to humans, their natural food sources decrease as well.
Five days ago a monster blizzard dropped a foot of snow in these parts. The turkeys that visited today were mighty hungry and seemed grateful to find a decent meal. Tomorrow's temperatures are expected to rise into the 50s, a welcome respite for them as well.
I am always delighted to see these beautiful and intelligent birds, and their visit today seems like an auspicious way to begin the new year.