SciSun: Talking Turkey   Leave a comment

The Holiday season is, for many, one of the best times of the year. Most everyone enjoys festive decorations, and cool, crisp weather, and big feasts with once-a-year foods. The North American Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), however, has an entirely different viewpoint about these weeks from November through December. And now he’s starting to fight back.

In the San Francisco Bay area of Northern California, turkeys have, you might say, flown the coop. Historically uncommon or unknown on the west coast but introduced into the area less than a century ago as hunting trophies, today the population has grown to over a quarter of a million, and the birds are flocking to urban and suburban neighborhoods. Not due to high property values or coffee bar on every corner, but because humans have unwittingly created the perfect turkey habitat in their own backyards and city parks: Food (acorns, nuts, seeds, grass and insects) is usually easy to find; shrubs and trees make convenient hiding and roosting areas; and bird feeders are ubiquitous. Unfortunately, a rafter of turkeys (not a flock or group) can tear up gardens and landscaping, damage cars through scratching and pecking, and steal food intended for other birds or even pets. Gathered together in a gang (sometimes used interchangeably with rafter – and possibly more descriptive), turkeys can virtually take over an area, forcing out other birds, small wildlife, and sometimes the more timid dogs (purse pooches, watch out). And don’t think you can get on their good side by feeding them: For no apparent reason, turkeys sometimes are aggressive toward people who’ve feed them in the past. Maybe they didn’t like what’s on the menu.

Sometimes the 'Black Friday' sales are just too good to pass up, even if that means wiating all night to be first in line.

Sometimes the ‘Black Friday’ sales are just too good to pass up, even if that means waiting all night to be first in line.

But the birds are not, yet, out of control (‘Attack of the 50 foot Turkey’ is still science fiction), and it’s possible for humans to stand our ground. Despite the challenges of gangs of 25 pound wild birds randomly gobbling up our open spaces, most people don’t mind – that much – and don’t want the birds harmed (which is really ironic, when you think about it). The birds usually avoid areas with large or threatening dogs, and aggressive shooing by waving your arms and making odd sounds while quickly moving toward the birds has been shown to disperse a rafter. (Or maybe they are simply shocked by seeing humans behave that way). Despite the birds somewhat odd shape and large size, they can be excellent fliers – most often at short distances  – but it seems they prefer not to fly unless they must, and the most simple barrier is enough to keep the birds at bay, particularly if they can’t see what’s on the other side of the fence.

The best way to keep turkeys at a distance, it seems, was happened upon when someone just had too much of the birds and turned the water hose on them. Not too surprisingly, they hated getting wet and flew away, not to be seen in that area for days later. When they probably forgot why they left in the first place. While the wild turkey might be among the most unusual wildlife species to share our yards and spaces, he’s not the only animal: Often rabbits and skunks and hawks and coyotes and raccoons and bears and mountain lions and many more are living among us, but often unseen and unheard, just as they like it. So while man continues to forge and form the cocoon which is modern society, along the edges bits of the natural world are finding their way in. And if this concerns you, just remember to keep your water hose handy. Unless, of course, there happens to be a severe drought and no water should be wasted….which may be exactly the opportunity the turkeys were waiting for.,1607,7-153-10370_12145_12202-52511–,00.html


Michonne Says: The men talk about a Turkey Day. I think that means it’s like that Groundhoggy day when everyone watches to see if ground-hoggies wake up on time. So today the men must watch and wait for turkeys to do something, for some reason. I’ve also heard something about tossing around a pig by it’s skin which I’m certain the pigs don’t like and I must have misunderstood. But the the ground-hoggies have a special day and the turkeys and even pigs and still nothing for squirrels or marmots. Phooey.

Posted November 23, 2014 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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