Happy Families Are All Alike ….

It is so nice to see families using our resources at Hill-Stead. Many sign the log book at the parking area trail head after a walk together. Some are letterboxers and some just out for a nice stroll. All kinds of families enjoy the property in all kinds of ways. And some of them are turkeys.

I’m not disparaging our human guests by any means, but we are having such a great time this spring and summer watching a really nervy family of turkeys-the bird kind! Seemingly without an iota of concern they make their way around the property, studiously avoiding eye contact with us. They think nothing of sashaying across the driveway or the parking area with dozens of people exclaiming and snapping photos. They are so haughty! Neither looking to the right nor the left they simply go about their business as if we were the servants and they the lords of the castle. I remember a fresh old poem about Boston, “City of Boston, home of the bean and the cod; Where Cabots speak only to Lodges; And Lodges speak only to God”. Evidently, these turkeys are Lodges since they throw neither a glance nor a gobble our way. turkeyWhen the first settlers came to Connecticut, wild turkey was literally thick on the ground. Early writings make it sound like you could trip on one on the way to the woodpile. But forest clearing and tough winters extirpated the turkey from Connecticut by the early 1800’s. Attempts at reintroduction in the 20th century were not successful until free-roaming turkeys from other places were caught and moved here. The whole thing must have been a trauma for the relocated turkeys. They were captured by using a rocket net. A large lightweight net is fired by rockets from a remote hideout. It traps turkeys which have been attracted to the area by bait. Imagine going out for a bite to eat and the next thing you know you’re part of the turkey witness protection program!

Goodness knows those turkeys made the best of it. Releases and population expansion have restored the bird to all 169 towns in Connecticut. Farmington is amply represented in population by my informal count. Across Connecticut flocks of thirty or forty are not rare, and there may be bigger ones around. Usually a flock has about 10 or 20 birds.colonial picture
Everyone makes fun of turkeys, although Ben Franklin wanted to make it the avian symbol of the new United States. I am on his side. A turkey is an impressive,  majestic bird. They have a regal bearing, and although they look something like a flying barrel-keg when they lift off for flying, they are accomplished and strong when airborn. They have excellent hearing and eyesight, too. The result is that very few predators can catch one.  Now make fun.

A “tom” turkey is a lucky fellow. The bird is polygamous, and an enterprising male will breed with every hen in his territory. A wild turkey can range over several square miles in one day. Still laughing?

A male turkey can weigh 25 pounds and can achieve a height of about four feet. The hen is a little smaller at 12 pounds and two feet. Toms also have long, sharp spurs on the backs of their legs.  I wouldn’t fool with one.woodpile

Besides, why fool with one when you can just chuckle at one? It’s actually three by last count, we lost one to teenage oppositional-defiance on the part of one of the poults. He wouldn’t move on with the group to such an extent that they basically forgot about him and then he couldn’t find them.  A fox is looking mysteriously well-fed these last couple of weeks.  The birds aren’t hard to find. You could literally trip over one on the way to the woodpile. fox
See you on the trails,
Diane Tucker, Estate Naturalist

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6 Responses to “Happy Families Are All Alike ….”

  1. Ratty Says:

    I’ve never seen a live turkey. It must be fun seeing them strut around like that. They better hope that fox is satisfied with just one.

  2. Krista Says:

    Mmm… Turkey!

  3. Bridget Says:

    WOW! That’s great–good use of word pictures.

  4. Patsy Says:

    Wild turkeys are more interesting for sure and a fox has got to eat. Run into turkeys in NH, but not out here.

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