Bird of the Week

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Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the wild turkey.
The wild turkey is native only to the Americas and fossil records show that it has lived here more than 5 million years. However, by the early 20th century, this bird’s popularity as a game bird and loss of its habitat almost led to its demise. In the late 1940s, game managers initiated a successful program of transplanting wild-caught birds that has led to wild turkeys living in every state except Alaska. Now we see them commonly here moving through the forest, crossing the road, on the golf course and in our yards.
Wild turkeys are large, plump birds, dark overall, with male birds showing bronze and green iridescent colors and a beard of feathers growing from the chest. In spring, male birds gather to strut their stuff, fanning out beautiful bronze-colored tail feathers and calling to attract mates. The successful male will mate with several females, but there his parental duties end. Only the females care for their young and in summer will gather with other families to form large flocks.
Wild turkeys travel together, foraging for mostly plant materials on the ground, but will also eat insects, spiders and snails. Acorns are a favorite food. The can fly, run at speeds up to 25 mph and swim if necessary. At night, they roost in trees.
The wild turkey is a bird brought back from the threat of extinction by good management practices.
For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.