2019: Year of the Turkey

IMG_5398.jpeg2019 was a good year for turkeys. Actual wild turkeys, living in our neighborhood’s small patch of prairie, strutting our streets, grazing on our commons. (And occasionally, as above, raiding a neighbor’s bird feeder.)

I love wild turkeys. Near extinction fifty years ago, they have roared back with a vengeance. Sometimes a literal vengeance, attacking cars and people. I don’t actually approve of that, but I understand the sentiment.

Wildlife experts talk about male turkeys seeing themselves reflected in shiny metal and attacking. I don’t believe that for a minute. Turkeys are smart birds, and they know exactly who they are attacking.

“Wipe us off the face of the earth, will you?” they ask. “Not this century! See how you like being chased out of your territory. And for good measure, I’m going to scratch your shiny car.”

Our flock of turkeys numbered 35 by summer’s end, some old ones and some youngsters, now half-grown and feisty. Through the summer, I saw the young ones always accompanied by elders, ready to protect them or to herd them out of harm’s way. A coyote might be able to kill a half-grown turkey, but I doubt that it would stand a chance against a trio of adults.

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I watched them all year long: parading down Otis Avenue, flying down from their night-time perches to the radio station lawn on Frontenac, scratching for insects in someone’s garden and someone else’s front yard. They walk up to a front porch, march between a garage and house, raid a low-to-the-ground bird feeder, perch on a fence before flying away.

Looking at these giant birds, you might think they are too big and ungainly to fly. Not so. I’ve seen them fly down from their nightly tree-top roosts, across busy streets and highways, over fences that stand in their way. They fly silently, startling you with their sheer size and silent speed. I’ve ducked, driving down a highway, as a trio of turkeys hurtled low across the road in front of my windshield.

2019 was also a banner year for the human turkey, described by Merriam Webster as “a stupid, foolish, or inept person.” Wild turkeys make some 28 distinct sounds, but they don’t tweet.

The human variety tweets, preens, prevaricates, blusters, and brags.

One New Jersey resident called on the governor and legislature to find “an answer to these dangerous animals that trespass, defecate, and possibly endanger our very lives and homes!”

Personally, I’m looking forward to November when we can vote them out.

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