Friday, March 25, 2011

Eastern Wild Turkey Gobblers

There are conflicting opinions as to whether the Eastern Wild Turkey is a beautiful or ugly bird, but it is so highly regarded as a game species in Pennsylvania that it is classified as a big game animal and is hunted in both spring and fall seasons (males only are legal in the spring).

Alert Gobbler

While the head may have a somewhat reptilian appearance, which is especially noticeable when the bird is feeding or checking for danger, this is offset by the overall stunning beauty of the gobblers when they strut and spread their tail fans during the courtship display, and a mature gobbler standing in bright sunlight is beautiful at any time, as the rays of the sun make his plumage come alive, while  it looks drab under poor lighting conditions.

Gobbler Struts In Early Morning
I used to think that turkeys only strutted and gobbled in the spring--especially in April, but have found that it can happen at any time of year, although it is much more prevalent during the mating  season in late winter and spring, but as far as I know the actual courtship display only occurs in late winter or spring.  At this time the male bird gobbles, fans his tail, struts, and walks in circles with his head often rapidly changing hues.  I have seen them go from red, to white and all shades between in just a few seconds.

Gobbler Struts And Drags Wings On Ground
I was born in 1950, but never saw a turkey until sometime in the mid-1960s.  They were another species that one only heard about, such as bears, eagles, and river otters, although some old time dedicated turkey hunters did continue to hunt them and be able to find them.  As mentioned, this changed  in the 1960s, at least in Fulton County, and their was a substantial turkey population by the early 1970s, which has continued to this day.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill