Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Thomas is back

A patriarch with a sweet side

Mature wild turkeys are called Toms, and I rather like this one, so I call him Tommy. He's fiercely protective of his clan but he can be sweet and very gentle with the poults. He actually does "rule the roost" and though it's pretty darn rude of him to take off for three months and then show up and begin throwing his weight around, that's the way wild turkey family groups function. In exchange, the hens and poults get his awesome protection. 

Today, a house cat from across the way escaped, as he likes to do every now and then. He's not particularly skilled at hunting, but the turkeys perceive him as a threat and rightly so as the poults continue to be vulnerable. Whether in the grip of a clumsy but swift house cat or the sharp as knives talons of a hawk, a poult has almost no chance of escaping, never mind surviving such events. And though the poults are big now, a hawk could still take one. Having Tommy on patrol is a real deterrent.

It just so happens that a hawk is raising young nearby and when the adult turkeys hear their piercing calls, they stop whatever they are doing and look skyward and display a body posture that tells the poults: this is a warning you must never ignore.

For the rest of the summer and into the fall, the poults will be learning critical survival skills to prepare for the greatest challenge of their young lives ― their first New England winter.

Tommy is a long lived bird. The length of his beard is one clue. With his many years of experience, he has much to teach the poults and they have much to learn.  

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