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What do Turkeys do in Winter?

January 10, 2015

When I was in college I had a room to myself in a suite of sorts. Feeling kind of lonely I decided to get a pet, so stupidly I went to a pet store. After a bit of deliberation I decided a bird would strike the right balance between being low-maintenance and holding my interest.

Edmund: How much is the parrot?

Shopkeeper: Oh, he's only $10, but I have to warn you, he has a foul mouth and an abusive personality.

Edmund: $10? sold.

Shopkeeper: Alright, but no returns and no warranties.

So I brought the parrot back in a cage. As soon as I crossed the threshold to dorm the parrot lit into me with a stream of abuse.

Parrot: You *&^?>!* little *$#~. What is your !?@$!&* problem? I want out of this *&>^ cage right now you *&%@!$^.

And so on, for hours. Being in a tiny room I couldn't escape the abuse while I tried to study. Finally I grabbed the bird, carried him into the kitchen area, opened the freezer and tossed him in. The invective continued apace but at least was much muffled. I decided to cook dinner so I could be close enough to look after the bird and warn room-mates about it. Two minutes later the parrot suddenly went silent. Thinking he might be in trouble I rushed to the freezer and opened the door.

Parrot: Kind sir, will you please return me to my cage where I will patiently await your every directive.

Smiling, I held out my hand and the parrot gingerly stepped onto it. As I carried him to the cage -

Parrot: If I may be so bold... what pray tell did the turkey do?

For some reason I'm capable of remembering jokes if they involve animals, not so much if they don't.

The turkey in the photo did not call me names, but he did commit the capital offense of eating my neighbor's corn. He spent the last three months in my freezer and only came out for a photo session recently since I shot it during fall hunting season. That big black thing sprouting out of its neck is a "beard." This one dressed to 12 pounds. The birds I eat this time of year get through the winter on ice so to speak... but the question in the title of this post involves the live birds that populate the woods. In the fall they eat a lot of corn from local fields. Usually snow doesn't set in for good until some time in December and often we get a thaw in January or February. Whenever the ground goes bare I see turkeys out scratching around in the corn stubble. And I'm sure they can dig through several inches of snow. But there are periods - weeks to months in length around here - when that is not possible. During those times of hardship I suspect they survive largely on tree buds and fat reserves. I've read that they will hunker down in a tree and roost for up to three days if the conditions are blizzard-like. I'm sure that they eat mice and voles given the opportunity , but I've never read that they are particularly skilled at preying on rodents. And I have yet to witness a turkey catch a mouse.

My dear deceased neighbor who was an avid hunter and keen observer of wildlife thought that the smaller birds had an easier time of it during really cold, deep snow spells. He said their daily intake needs were lower, and thus they did better when things got rough. Any of you readers have other observations?

Finally, it appears I gave the wrong blogtrottr address if you want to be notified when we've posted. The correct one is cairncrestfarm.com/feed/

Edmund Brown

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