Turkey in the Straw…or not?

I’ve been thinking about turkeys lately. Sometimes I see them while I’m driving around to various locations in South Jersey. I was driving to work about a week ago and almost slammed on my brakes in awe (don’t worry, I didn’t and no one was behind me anyway!). There were about 12 turkeys on somebody’s lawn strutting around. There were about 3 males, and they were displaying their feathers while females walked around. It was a fascinating sight! Of course I was running late for work and didn’t have a camera, so I wasn’t able to take a picture, but I definitely saved a mental image. It reminded me of one of my favorite unexpected birding moments.

When we hear the word “turkey” we usually think of a large bird strutting around in a field or open area. But maybe “Turkey in the Straw” (like the American folk song) may not be accurate all the time. What about a turkey in the tree?

Last October, Dave and I were taking an evening walk at Boundary Creek. As usual, we were looking up in the trees seeing what we could find before daylight was gone. We always keep an eye out for owls, so when we saw something large and dark in a tree we got excited.

And there it was. Not an owl but…a female turkey in a tree. A turkey in a…tree? It definitely wasn’t what we expected to find.  She was not very graceful as she moved from the tree she occupied to a neighboring one. The confusion was very brief though, and the excitement came right back. A turkey in a tree! Cool!

A turkey roosting in a tree (Image by secpnc)

So being a bird nerd, I had to learn more about this. It turns out that turkeys roost in trees at night. Roosting is when a bird finds a place to sleep or rest.  Turkey don’t have good night vision, so roosting in a tree helps protect them from predators. It makes sense. Many smaller birds roost in trees, but you never expect to see something like a turkey up there with the songbirds.

After that I was hooked. My mission from then on was to be on the lookout for turkeys in trees (and  it still is!). A few days later, Dave and I found the female again, this time with two juvelines in a different tree. It was just as exciting as the first time. From that point on I think of that specific tree as “The Turkey Tree”.

I haven’t seen a turkey in a tree since then, but I’m hoping I will. It’s a fun and somewhat silly sight. Next time you’re out in a wooded area at dusk keep an eye out for turkeys. Just make sure you’re looking up :-).




Author: BirdNation

I am an avid birder, teacher, and nature lover. I primarily go birding in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but love to travel. I am currently a biology student with interests in conservation biology, ornithology, and environmental sciences. My dream is to go birding in all 50 states.

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