Wild Turkey Nest

What could've been the national symbol of the USA if Ben Franklin had his way, the wild turkey (meleagris gallopavo) is having a bit of a resurgence as of late. In our neck of the woods (central New York state) they have become a common sight and small bands of them are often seen crossing the country roads during the day.

But we had a lovely surprise these past few weeks. Recently, I had begun clearing some trails through the woods behind our house. This project included building three bridges across a couple of small creeks (the construction of which may be the topic of a future blog post). While working on one of them, I came across what at first appeared to be a dead turkey plopped amid some branches and twigs at the crest of a small cliff that overlooks the main creek. It blended in so beautifully that in spite of walking past the same spot several times in the course of the previous hour, I had missed it completely. Upon further inspection from a distance, it was apparent that this was a live turkey. I assumed that it had been injured or was sick, and let it be.

The following day it was still there. And the day after that and the day after that. Looking none the worse for wear I assumed it was a hen (due to its size) sitting on a nest. The bird remained in pretty much the same position for about two weeks (I don't know how long it was there before I spotted it).

This morning the bird was gone and in its place was this:

Here's a close-up:

There are about 10-12 eggs here, which is a typical amount. Each is about the size of a large chicken egg. Note the completely "bare-bones" approach to nest building: Find a pile of sticks, push a few of them apart, and have at it. Turkeys normally roost in trees at night (it's a good bit of fun watching them fly up into the trees as graceful they aren't), but I don't know what the females do when nesting. I assume they stay on the nest.

Newly hatched turkeys are ready to roll upon entering the world and have no reason to return to this site, minimal as it is. I will, however, keep my eye on it in subsequent years to see if it's a popular spot.

For those interested in the trail itself, the area is mostly hardwood (red maple, sugar maple, ash, aspen, cherry) and some softwood (mostly hemlock). Much of the floor is covered by ferns (three different varieties dominate). Here is a shot of the largest bridge. About 10 to 15 meters beyond the bridge and to the right is the turkey nest (not visible in this shot):

Here are a couple shots of the trails leading from the house down to the creek, the first being the east side trail and the other the west side trail:


The wood chips visible on the west trail came courtesy of the downed branches and limbs that had to be cleared earlier in the season.

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Keep an eye out for your turkey family; a wild turkey hen came up out of the woods this spring and nested directly next to the house. They hatched this week (12 chicks) and she seems perfectly comfortable leading them around the garden where we can watch them come and go.

Delightful post!