Wild turkeys are lively in the fields, nesting and thriving

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Running with the Birds by Rebecca Pugh

If you run down Great Neck early in the morning, you might spot a flock of large, confident birds roaming around the top of the hill and feeding for breakfast.

If you hear their abyss, you’ll know for sure. Wild turkeys have made a comeback, having nearly disappeared in much of the United States.

This noisy bird lays its eggs in a cup of dry leaves which it claims as a makeshift nest – not building a new one, but preferring to work with what already exists. Her clutch of four to 17 eggs will incubate for a month, then the babies hatch early, covered in pinkish and brownish down, ready to run a day later.

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The chicks will travel – following their mother, then joining two or three other adult females, sometimes also joining additional chicks.

You might, if you’re lucky, see dozens of turkey chicks traveling together.

Wild turkey numbers plummeted in the mid-1800s when they were hunted for food. To make matters worse, their forest habitat has been obliterated by land clearing and construction.

In 1975, however, New Hampshire Fish and Game officials transported 25 wild turkeys from New York and Pennsylvania to the Connecticut River Valley.

Today, New Hampshire has nearly 45,000 turkeys, and similar reintroduction stories can be told in eastern Massachusetts.

Wild turkeys can walk, run, fly and swim. You might see them walking the streets, searching for nuts and seeds, managing their hierarchies that change from season to season.

You might see them running through the forest, finding safety in their loud displays, explosive sounds, and quick legs.

You might see them flying in the trees in the evening, where they spend their nights in relative safety, safe from skunks, raccoons and foxes.

You might even see the younger ones swimming, their tails stretched behind them like rudders, kicking with their clawed feet.

In any case, you can celebrate this wild bird, surviving a near decimation. Whether you’re looking out the window, like Linda Riley did when she saw a beautiful turkey, or running beside it, like I often do in the morning, you can sing a little.”gurglingand thank the planners, conservators, advocates and rangers who helped them thrive again.

Also give thanks for the turkeys themselves: those huge, loud, confident creatures we share the streets with.

You run with wild turkeys.


Rebecca Pugh, author, has a Ph.D. in storytelling and peacemaking and is a student in Mass Audubon’s Birder Certificate Program at Joppa Flats. You can read more of his columns here.