Wednesday, April 8, 2009

An Unforgettable Day: Eastern Wild Turkey Encounters

Tuesday was more reminiscent of late fall than of early spring with a bitter chill in the air and strong gusts of wind from the northwest. Dawn found me concealed by the edge of a mountain meadow with the 500mm F4 and 40-D mounted on the tripod, hoping to sight wild turkeys.

I was not to be disappointed as soon after dawn turkeys began appearing with young gobblers known as "jakes", coming quite near me. Soon I heard a thunderous gobble in the distance and saw a large mature bird coming toward the jakes. They hunched over, began shuffling their feet, and rubbing their legs together. Sometimes they even lowered themselves completely to the ground.

Dancing ?

The mature gobbler stopped quite some distance away and began doing the same thing.
I have not read about this behavior, but it has to be some sort of challenge to the other birds as the mature bird did not approach closer.

Trying To Intimidate ?

The posturing continued for some time and then the jakes stopped shuffling and ran at the mature bird.

What Is He Doing?

The large bird fled to the opposite side of the meadow and they stopped pursuit so he quit running and spent nearly an hour posturing and strutting. This began before sunrise, when the light was poor, but fortunately continued until the rays of the sun hit the bird and showed the colors of the plumage to best effect.

"I can't believe I ran from those little boys"

It seemed strange that the jakes intimidated the large bird, but evidently he was no match for that many determined young gobblers.

"Showing Who Looks The Most Impressive"

That evening two large gobblers had a violent fight. I saw one skirting the edge of the meadow at extreme range. He went into the edge of the woodland and I was recording him with the XL-H1 and 100-400mm, when another gobbler arrived. The fight was so intense that I could actually hear the impact of the wings beating against each other at over 300 yards of distance.
Unortunately there was quite a bit of intervening brush, making filming difficult, but it was nonetheless one of those rare moments that one never forgets, as in fact was most of the events of this blustery early April day.


fishing guy said...

Willard: Really neat shots of the turkey stuttin' its stuff. Beautiful photo of the in the last shot, beard is really showing.

DeeMom said...


Our new Pet Male turkey has a wee beard

I suppose as he matures it too will grow?

OR do they stick it out when they NEED TO?

I rather suppose not, Slates looks like the 1/4 end of a shaving brush...

Shellmo said...

Wonderful how you captured their strutting behavior! I would love to have seen something like this!

Leedra said...

Had a wild turkey talking to me at Cades Cove this morning. Got some ok shots of him, but he never fanned out totally. I was disappointed but the photos I got turned out ok.

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T and S said...

Stunning series on these wild turkey Willard. I enjoyed browsing this post. The last one is my favorite.

Anonymous said...

Awesome photos. I never knew turkeys fought. Very interesting info. I really like turkeys, but as you can tell, I don't know much about them!

imac said...

What a stunner Willard.

Happy Easter

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

How wonderful to be able to witness this and get such great photgraphs Willard. It seems like the younsters were chasing him off their patch? Are they territorial? I think if it was a challenge for females, the youngsters would not of had a chance.

Philip said...

Willard this must of been quite amuzing to watch Also some great shots 10/10 Thanks for Sharing this moment :))

Anonymous said...

I really liked the photos of the turkeys. My barber was telling me he saw a lot of them in the Smokey Mountains last week.

The Birdlady said...

Wow! What a wonderful series, and the grand finale is amazing.

Old Wom Tigley said...

These are stunning pictures Willard... I have never had the pleasure of seeing a turkey in the wild... or for that matter out on a farm... I really must find out if they are kept locally..

Happy Easter to you and all you hold dear Willard.


Bradley Myers said...

It sounds like you had an exciting time, great photos and account of the incident. Have a great weekend, Brad.

Willard said...

They are very territorial at this time of year. I suspect that the young birds would not be as aggressive if there were only one or two of them and maybe they would have turned and ran in this case if the old bird turned on them.

Manz said...

What an incredible animal. Very impressive.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks for the info Willard. The interaction of animals and birds is always fascinating to me.

Stacey Huston said...

Willard, I have never heard of, or seen this either. Must ask around..Great shots, you were so lucky with the lighting. We took our boys out turkey hunting with their long bows this weekend. They didn't harvest any, but I did get some great photos and some wonderful memories..