Show-offs

On my way to work I spotted these Wild Turkeys in a neighbor’s yard. The ‘tom’ seemed oblivious as I pulled in the drive to take a picture. And the hen seemed just as oblivious of the tom. Maybe she hoped if she ignored him he would just go away.

wild_turkeys

Their breeding season begins in March, but it seemed like he wanted an extension. I’ve heard that Benjamin Franklin nominated the Wild Turkey for our national symbol, but the eagle won out. The Bald Eagle is impressive, but I imagine the turkey was more helpful in ensuring the survival of the early American settlers.

They were so important to early Hoosiers, that like the white-tailed deer, turkeys were extirpated from the state by the early 1900s. Poor planning, I guess. And perhaps proof that the ‘Good Old Days’ belong to no particular decade or century. For all the benefits of Selma Steele’s time, it’s very unlikely that she would have enjoyed the sight of Wild Turkeys in her Brown County backyard.

In the early 1930s, the Indiana Department of Conservation tried to bring Wild Turkeys back home again to Indiana — Brown County being one location. Although this attempt failed, they were later successfully reintroduced by the Indiana Department of Fish and Wildlife. Indiana Ruffed Grouse were traded for Wild turkeys from Missouri, and this time it ‘took’.

I remember the first time I saw Wild Turkeys. I was working at a construction site across the highway from Brown County State Park. I don’t know if they were disturbed by the crew’s arrival or if they were ready to leave anyway, but suddenly four or five large objects noisily took off from nearby roosts. I’m sure I was more surprised than they were.

When looked at aerodynamically, bumblebees aren’t supposed to be able to fly. When Wild Turkeys fly, they look like they’ll crash and burn — it’s almost embarrassing to watch. In 1820, Audubon observed turkeys crossing the Ohio river from the Indiana side. Several didn’t make it and were drowned. I wonder if they were just showing off.

Davie Kean is the master gardener at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site.

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