Thursday, April 21, 2011

Toms strut their stuff

A Tom struts his stuff to attract hens and intimidate other males

Toms strut and make nice while the hen bides her time

Continuing a series on Eastern Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris): Toms (males) begin their courtship of hens in March and April, when the flock is still together from the winter. When a Tom is excited, the wattles and the bare skin of his head and neck all become engorged with blood. The colors on his head depend on his mood ― blue and white when he feels amorous and red when he's ready to fight. A Tom spreads his tail feathers like a fan when he's strutting or displaying. He'll also puff up his chest feathers and drag the tips of his wings on the ground.

Some interesting identifying features of male turkeys are below (click on photos for better views of coloration, wattlesm beard and caruncles):

Wattles: folds of red skin under the chin

Caruncles: fleshy and wart-like growths on the head and neck, which turn bright red in mating season

Snood: flappy, fingerlike piece of skin that dangles over the beak, with the same coloring as caruncles

Spur: bony spike on the rear of each leg, which can be quite sharp and is used for fighting

Beard: black feathers that resemble long coarse hairs. Beards grow from the chest and become longer with age

Some of the Toms displaying here must be a decade old or more; their beards are impressively long!

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