Page 8 - July 7, 2021
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{ 8 }  SNJ Today  |  JULY 7, 2021                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 JULY 7, 2021  |   { 9 }

           Talking Turkey

                Protecting the family—a turkey’s tale.

     NATURE AROUND US                  J. Morton Galetto, CU Maurice River

          ome of our readers , I suspect, have
          been seeing hen turkeys lead their
     Sfamilies through neighborhoods,
     so it seems like yet another time to—you
     guessed it —talk turkey.
        Two years ago I relayed a story on
     these pages of a resident turkey that nest-
     ed at our back door in a patch of rosemary,
     sage, and oregano. It was mid-August, so
     a late brood. Her patterned feathers and
     featherless head kept her well camou-
     flaged and safely hidden. But the question
     remained: How did our three bird dogs

                                                                               stalking its quarry and then explosively   Can you find the turkey hen hidden in this
                                                                               attacking it.                       spice patch? How she disguised her odor is
                                                                                 The hen bird was never seen off her   another question!
                                                                               eggs, so being motionless also meant
                                                                               she wasn’t expending energy or burning   diligent mother went undetected by our
                                                                               valuable fat resources. But the most   dogs. Eureka!
                                                                               amazing thing was how three bird dogs   Beyond having feathers that blend
                                                                               passed by her, often within four feet, for   into natural backgrounds, ground-nesting
                                                                               nearly a month and never detected her   birds’ eggs look much like the ground
                                                                               scent. Our bird dogs’ olfactory capacities   they are laid upon. Beach nesting bird
                                                                               are often reliable at 50 or more feet with   eggs resemble sand, turkey eggs are
                                                                               a light wind. With their noses, they can   blotched with earthen colors. These are
                                                                               detect the difference between a live   passive camouflage strategies at their
                                                                               healthy bird, a dead bird, or a crippled   finest.
                                                                               bird. So what was going on?            Each morning my husband and I go
                                          Hatched turkey eggs: Notice the eggs’   In David Sibley’s newest book, What   on a walk. The first leg is along a road
     not detect her, at least by scent?   cryptic coloration that serves very well in   It’s Like to Be a Bird, I finally found the   adjacent to wooded property. We have
        Turkeys have many types of defenses.   camouflaging the eggs against the ground.  answer to the question that has plagued   been seeing a bearded hen with 18 chicks
     Some are passive like camouflage, others                                  me for two years. Sibley acknowledges   in our yard, and other broods, too. In
     are tactical or aggressive, and still others   TOP: Turkey hen scowls at intruder and   that while cryptic coloring is effective,   the second week of June a hen bird was
     use chemistry. First and foremost, the   raises her tail in defense of her young.   “a major threat is predators hunting   making incessant “putts,” a turkey’s
     incubating hen bird remains motionless.                                   by smell.” He goes on to explain that   alarm call. Not soft little putts emitted in
     Movement is one of the dead giveaways   choose to move you better be fast. Even   ground-nesting birds change the chem-  a whisper but very loud continual putts.
     in nature; you stir and you’ve revealed   a cheetah, the world’s fastest land ani-  istry of their preening oil “during the   “Something’s not right,” I remarked. “She
     your presence. Remaining still can be the   mal, will employ lack of motion to evade   nesting season to a different chemical   is going bonkers, signaling distress. There
     difference between life and death. If you   detection when hunting prey, first deftly   compound with no odor.” This is why our   must be a fox after her poults.” Just then
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