Out on my morning walks in spring, I often hear the distinctive gobble of male turkeys long before I see them. The wild turkey’s call will carry over a mile, alerting other males to its location and calling females. Their hearing is excellent. Their eyesight is three times better than human eyesight; which explains why they start moving away from me at a fast pace long before I’m close to them. I have tried for a month now to get close enough to take photos of their courtships, hoping perhaps I could sneak up on them. Until Thursday morning, I hadn’t been very successful. I took photos before, but almost all were too far away and the lighting was always bad or a tree branch was in the way. As I was on my walk Thursday, mom texted me that five turkeys were on the other side of the hill along the road. Of course I was about twenty minutes away and without my camera. Quickly I walked back up the hill and the long driveway to get my camera. I thought for sure they would be gone before I got there, this often happened when any member of the family told me about an interesting wildlife sighting they thought I’d like to photograph. I had been praying for weeks I could take some awesome photos of turkeys with perfect lighting. As a gift from above, the turkeys were miraculously still there and the clouds moved allowing the sun to shine perfectly on them. This time I was able to get close enough too.
The males had their tails fanned out, dragging their wings. They strutted about trying to make the most impressive display. It was almost as if they were dancing. With feathers all puffed and spread out with wings sagging, they’d turn. It was a graceful fluid turn, turning about in a circle. The entire time they are gobbling. The two females silently watched the males show off. Their heads were almost an iridescent blue; they change color depending on the mood of the turkey, white is when they are really excited. I watched the spectacular courtship for several minutes, slowly moving closer. Soon they began to move away from me, eventually disappearing into the woods.
The wild turkey is the largest native game bird in the state of Minnesota. Due to loss of habitat and market hunting it was eliminated from Minnesota by the early 1900s. The wild turkey was reintroduced in the late 1960-70s. Mom remembers when sighting a wild turkey was a rare treat when she was growing up. Now there are at least thirty hanging around our farm and the neighboring fields. Their numbers have increased such that there are two hunting seasons a year. It is easy to take them for granted, so this spring I have stopped to take the time to watch them and listen to the males chatter even in the snow and rain.