Nature: Turkeys can fly, often sleep in trees

Turkeys are large birds! They also are seen frequently on this island these days. The state’s re-introductory program worked well. When our family moved here in 1972 no turkeys were seen. Now, in 2019, they are a familiar sight all over the island.

Wild turkeys spend a lot of time during the day walking about searching for food. I have seen them at the beach, crossing island roads, walking in fields and woods and feeding at bird feeders with other birds. Sometimes one or two at a time and at other times in large flocks. I once saw them in Georgia during courtship and watched them as the males fanned their tails and proudly strutted about to impress the females who continued eating nearby and pretended not to notice.

The whole scene was choreographed beautifully and all participants played their parts well. It was a scene I’ll never forget.

Did you ever wonder what turkeys do at night? They sleep high in trees. In the state of Maine I understand it is illegal to shoot them when they are in a tree. Wild turkeys can fly but their large size makes it quite a sight.

My small dog and I met and surprised a turkey in the brush behind the beach one day near Seawall and it was quite a flurry of feathers and a noisy event as the large turkey flew up and away as fast as it could. Turkeys are heavy birds. We were all surprised!

Home life for turkeys is different from many birds. Once the birds have mated the female makes her nest and does all the care and raising of the young. The nest is even kept a secret from the male.

In recent weeks I’ve had reports of white turkeys being seen here and there. In ancient lore white turkeys are often thought of as mystical. Actually it is what is known as the white phase or smoke phase exhibiting the color phase of a recessive gene.

The majority of white turkeys are females. Humans seem to like to give mystical qualities to white creatures. The difference in color or no color does not seem to bother wildlife at all. Wild turkeys, no matter what color they are, are interesting birds and their size is impressive. I like seeing them. I suspect a few wild turkeys were eaten on Thanksgiving this year.

One of the most beautiful of all ducks is the wood duck. Because of its love of privacy and woodland pools this duck is not so often seen. It is a lover of quiet woodland pools where it breeds and rests. When I lived in New York State we had had a sanctuary of about 20 acres with fields, woodlands and a small woodland pond.

Each night the wood ducks came in to rest on the pond and they often nested on the property. Even though the male is very colorful the birds are often unseen. Their beautiful colors in a woodland background blend in so well they go unnoticed. It you see one up close or in your binoculars the bird’s beauty is amazing. Words are inadequate in describing them. The wood duck rivals the Mandarin duck of the Far East in its beautiful feathers.

When these birds come in to roost at night their wings make a whistling sound. We always tried to be outside when they returned to our pond so we could hear this magical sound as they approached, landing on the water. Even with their beautiful plumage they blended in with the shadows on and around the pond and just disappeared.

One year a pair nested in a bird box put up for them not far from our kitchen window and we saw the baby ducks take their first flight from the nest box. They needed a little coaxing from the parents to make the plunge from high on the pole but one by one they left the box and floated like down to the ground. When all had landed the parents lead them off to our nearby pond. They hatched already knowing how to swim and just needed a few pointers on how to find the best food and escape dangers. Even without their parents, experts in bird behavior have told me they have a 50/50 chance of survival

Ducks to look for now on local waters are greater scaup, common eiders, long-tailed ducks, buffleheads, scoters (white-winged, black, and surf).

Be sure you have your bird book with you for identification. Along the shore watch for purple sandpipers from now on and throughout the winter.

If you have a nature lover on your gift list my latest book “Living on the Edge” makes a nice gift. It’s available at all local libraries and from the Tremont Historical Society, P.O. Box 215, Bass Harbor, 04653.

Send any questions or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742.

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

Send any questions or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742.
Ruth Grierson

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