Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Turkey Crossings

Or should it be "turkeys crossing?"  ProfessorRoush came across this delightful family troupe on his way to a local Iris sale early Saturday morning.  I hope everyone appreciates the pictures, blurry though they are, because taking them made me miss the mad initial rush of iris fanatics into the piles of iris starts, and thus I missed out on all the best iris cultivars.  Certainly the drivers of the two cars that passed me as I was stopped in the middle of the road and taking pictures with my iPhone must have thought that I was a mad as a hatter.

The Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo, is native to North America, although by a quirk of history it was named "turkey" because the trade routes from North America to Britain in the 1500's were routed through Constantinople, and thus the British associated the bird with the country, Turkey, and the name stuck.  Wild Turkeys are certainly prevalent in Kansas, and I often find them visiting my garden in early Spring, although sightings this time of year, when they are keeping their broods to the woods, are unusual.  They don't seem to harm my garden (with the sole exception of one previous incident noted here) , and they can be quite entertaining as they strut from bed to bed.

If you are the sole remaining American that hasn't heard yet, Benjamin Franklin wanted to make the Wild Turkey the national bird because he thought the Bald Eagle was lazy for stealing fish from other birds.  It is unfortunate in some ways that Wild Turkeys didn't win out over the Bald Eagle.  Turkeys get a bad rap for being stupid, but that's just because of our impressions of their big, fat domesticated cousins.  Wild Turkeys are exceptional citizens and good parents.   Just take, for example, the wisdom exhibited by the three hens in this covey.  They've kicked the bothersome polygamous males out of the group and they are sharing the burden of herding and henpecking the five youngsters, much like the soccer moms of our own species.  As I drove up on them, and by them, they kept the little ones in the center, pushed them to the edge, and then put themselves between their offspring and my car, offering their last feathers as protection.  Obviously the poults are not yet into the turkey equivalent of their rebellious teens or the hens wouldn't have been quite as blindly devoted.

These Wild Turkey's are probably the Rio Grande subspecies (Meleagris gallopavo intermedia) because of their geographic location and the buff, light tan color of the tips of the tail and lower back feathers.  They have longer legs than other subspecies, presumably better adapted for the tall grasses of the prairie, although I don't know if their legs are longer so they can walk better among the grass or because long legs make the females more attractive to males for other reasons ("Don't preen for that one Fred, her legs are so short and stubby that the grasses cover up her tail feathers").  Darwin's Natural Selection is still likely active though, although our human reasoning may fail in understanding the true mechanisms.  Heck, it's a well-known fact that most human males prefer human females with long slender legs over short stubby ones, and no one really knows why (I'm going to refrain here for my own good from the usual side reference to Mrs. ProfessorRoush).   Human females don't spend much time strutting in the grasses these days, so the height of the prairie grass probably isn't the driving issue. Well, I don't think so, anyways.


  1. I'm glad you made the tradeoff you did. Hope you got at least a few iris cultivars that you were looking for, though.

    1. Thanks, I was mainly going for yellows and reds (I have way too many blues and purples), and I was able to get some older classic varieties.


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