Around this time of year, many of us will consume turkey as a way to celebrate Thanksgiving.
Some will get their bird from the grocery store. However, there are others who will actually hunt their bird down. For those who like to hunt their own turkey, they will be after the allusive wild turkey that roam the countryside and is a favorite for some individuals to photograph.
The wild turkey is a large game bird of North America. Within this bird species, adult males are generally called toms or gobblers, while females are called hens.
Gobblers normally weigh between 16-24 pounds. However, the largest wild turkey on record weighed 37 pounds.
Spurs and beards are the two main ways you can tell gobblers from hens. A gobbler's spurs will grow as he ages and becomes curved. Some spurs have been known to grow to be about 2-inches long.
Hens, however, have spurs that do not grow and are referred to as small button spurs. Gobblers also possess the beards (modified feathers) growing out from their chest. Often, these beards will grow to be approximately 9-inches long. Occasionally, you will find a hen with a beard. However, it is not something that the majority of hens possess.
One unique feature about wild turkeys is that they have excellent vision during the day. However, they have difficulty seeing at night. Wild turkeys are known to also be very mobile since they can run at speeds up to 25 mph and fly up to 55 mph.
After finding out how unique and special this game bird is, it is surprising to find out that this bird once was on the verge of extinction. However, after habitat restoration and management and trap and transplant programs, the number of wild turkeys in North America has increased. The restoration of wild turkeys is generally considered to be one of the greatest wildlife management successes of our time.
The habitat for a wild turkey often includes open areas and forested areas. That is because wild turkeys like to feed and mate in open areas, but seek the forested areas for protection from predators.
Occasionally, you will see wild turkeys near farm fields. While in the fields, wild turkeys will consume insects and wasted grain. They are occasionally blamed for destroying crop yields, however.
Generally, wild turkeys do not consume enough grain to cause significant yield loss. Other items that wild turkeys consume include acorns, berries, insects and small reptiles.
Often times, wild turkeys will only eat two meals a day, one in the early morning and one in the afternoon.
History states that Ben Franklin wrote to his daughter that our nation's bird should have been a turkey because he is a "much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America."
That provides evidence that the wild turkey, with all of its uniqueness, is a valued part of our landscape and heritage.
As always, if you have any questions or would like information on any agriculture, horticulture, or natural resource topic, then please contact your local Purdue Extension Office at 448-9041 in Clay County or 812-829-5020 in Owen County or reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Purdue University is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.
Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:
* Today -- Extension Office closed,
* Nov. 30 -- PARP Program, Ivy Tech Workforce, 3-5 p.m. Cost $10,
* Dec. 7 -- Crop Management Conference, The Beef House, Covington, 8:45 a.m. For more information about registration fees and PARP, call 1-765-762-3231 by Tuesday,
* Dec. 11 -- Pinecone Birdfeeder Fest, McCormick's Creek State Park, 1 p.m., and
* Dec. 14 -- PARP Program, Cloverdale High School cafeteria, 6 p.m. Cost $10.