Sunday, July 1, 2012

We Four

The Eastern Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) family I have been observing since spring is now thriving. The four poults have reached a major milestone in their development their flight feathers have finally grown in! Last night I watched them follow their mother high into the trees to roost. They are much less vulnerable now.

The poults really seem to enjoy this new experience and sometimes during the day they will fly to some low hemlock branches and hang out for a little while just for fun. They look at each other and flap their wings, as if proclaiming: "We can roost, we can roost!" 

The hen following behind the poults is now helping to raise the brood. Her clutch of eggs may have been raided or her poults may have fallen victim to cold, heavy rains or a long list of predators: coyotes; foxes; fishers, mink, skunks, opossum, raccoons, snakes, hawks, owls, dogs and free roaming cats.

Hens cluck to their young while they are still in the eggs (wild turkeys have excellent hearing). Once the poults hatch, they listen closely to their mother and follow her commands to scatter, hide, or come back. I have watched Mama hen issue many commands to these four and they do pay attention. The fact that they've seen some of their siblings preyed upon has made them even more mindful of her.

Eleven poults hatched in May, but only four have made it to July. I think their achievement is something to celebrate. It might just be my perception, but in the top photo, these four poults seem rather purposeful, united in their determination to live, live, live. They have learned how to stick together and fan out for the best insect foraging ever. Click on the photos for best views.

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