Sunday, March 22, 2009

Why did the Turkey Cross the Street?

Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo variety intermieda (Rio Grande Subspecies), Julian, California. There was a huge flock of wild turkeys crossing the street just outside of Julian, CA. The car in front of me pulled over and, as I looked to see why, these huge turkeys started dashing across the street, one after another. So I, like any good photo nut, pulled over and hauled out the Nikon! The hens and younger males crossed first and the bigger, dominant males were last. A few turkeys even flew across the street. The pictured turkey was running at a decent clip. My hopping out of the car to take pictures (with a flash no less) did not disuade any of them from crossing although it may have accounted for a little extra speed as they ran or flew across the street. Or, perhaps they are just a little photo-shy. As it was early evening, the pictures are not crystal sharp (exposure length thing) but you get the general idea.

The striking thing here is that wild turkeys are generally agile, sleek, fast moving birds. They are also quite omnivorous gaving a very broad and adaptable diet including grass, leaves, nuts, berries, bugs and other opportunistic food, accounting for their ability to live in quite large groups and also for their ability to successfully spread across America. The wild birds that the Pilgrims at were probably Eastern Wild Turkeys, Meleagris gallopavo silvestris, one of the most heavily hunted wild birds in America. None of them look anything at all like the poor, bloated, line bred, clumsy domestic turkeys we eat every Thanksgiving.

As to why they crossed the street, it was because the rest of the flock had. The old line of elementary school jokes had to do with why the Chicken crossed the street. It normally had to do with Colonel Sanders on the other side or something similarly silly. For the likes of me, I can't recall why we thought those jokes were funny but, in elementary school, a lot of things seemed funny that don't seem so amusing any more. Perhaps we lost something?

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