People, places, and things that touch the lives of all of us and our friends and neighbors
November 23, 2011
Handsome? Intelligent? Wily? Delicious? It’s November when our thoughts turn to that most amazing of birds – the wild turkey. Some only consider him when he is on the end of a fork and dripping with gravy, but for all of us who love the Smokies, turkeys are a wonderful glimpse of the natural world.
The American turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is found only in the New World and was extremely abundant when settlers arrived from Europe. However, habitat loss, overhunting and diseases spread by domestic turkeys caused the population to decrease until regulation was enacted that brought the turkey back to its current abundance. You may glimpse a flock in Cades Cove or along any of the roads that lead to Townsend.
Turkeys (despite their reputation) are extremely intelligent birds, with keen eyesight, hearing, and the ability to run very well in addition to flying. At night they roost in trees and their plumage camouflages them perfectly in the woods. Thus they are protected from their primary predators – foxes, coyotes and of course, man.
Our owner, Don Headrick, has been a turkey hunter for about 6 years and expresses admiration for their survival abilities. He says, “They have such good sight and hearing if they could smell us there is no way we could ever catch them!”
Although the popular belief that turkeys will look up in the rain and drown is NOT true, rain in the springtime is a hazard to the new chicks. The little ones are covered with down and nest on the ground, so they are vulnerable to dying from exposure if they become wet and cold.
Keep an eye out for this beautiful, intelligent and tasty native of our forests as you explore the Smokies this winter!…Jennifer