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Wild Turkeys Dine on Sensitive Fern Spores

1-22-18 wild turkey IMG_0600Wild Turkeys usually forage in flocks as they search the ground for food. Acorns, hickory nuts, beechnuts, ironwood and white ash seeds, hawthorn and witch hazel fruits make up a lot of their diet in fall, winter and spring. In the summer, seeds of grasses and sedges as well as invertebrates are eaten. In winter, when snow has accumulated, leaves of sedges, evergreen ferns, hemlock buds, burdock seeds and spore-covered fronds of sensitive ferns tend to be more accessible and readily eaten.

The fertile fronds of sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis) persist all winter, sticking up out of the snow as if beckoning to hungry turkeys. Upon finding a clump of these fertile fronds, a turkey will peck repeatedly at them, causing the sori (clusters of sporangia which produce and contain spores) to burst and release thousands of spores onto the surface of the snow.

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10 responses

  1. Mary, how DO you get all the amazing, close-up photos of animals in action? I’m always impressed and fascinated, but for some reason, this morning I found myself asking that question. It’s always interesting to read the information you offer in your captions, but it’s that much more fascinating to look at a photo of details you’ve described. Do you sit and wait at a likely spot? or happen upon a scene? Do you use a really powerful telephoto lens (or whatever it is that skilled photographers use to take long-distance photos)? From how far away can you get a photo like today’s?
    I am in awe, and filled with gratitude daily, for your offerings to those of us who appreciate these glimpses at the wonders of the natural world that we rarely see firsthand. – Dell W.

    January 22, 2018 at 9:12 am

    • These are all good questions from dellwvt. I’d like to know that too. It’s really awesome that you get these shots!! Thanks. This is the answer to the last mystery photo we were looking at, right?

      January 22, 2018 at 9:17 am

      • Yes, this is the Mystery Photo demystified!

        January 22, 2018 at 10:56 am

    • Hi Dell,
      Thank you so much. It’s always interesting to me to see which posts get responses. Some of the photos that are the most rare, or unusual, don’t necessarily get the responses that more common subjects do. I do use a 400mm lens which allows me to photograph at a distance. (I’m saving for a 500.) I know most wildlife photographers use blinds and sit for hours waiting for the perfect shot. While I have used a blind (for beavers, nesting barred owls, etc.) 99% of my shots are taken during hikes/snowshoeing, with my dog Emma, or while riding in the car. I am not the world’s most patient person – imagine the photos I’d have if I were! But occasionally I just happen upon a wonderful opportunity (this spring I’ll post photos of nursing yearling black bears that I literally just stumbled upon in the woods last spring). I do go to certain places for loons, and moose, and if I hear about or find a fox den I’ll go there, but mostly I just spend a lot of time outdoors with my camera, and the subjects of my posts are determined by the photos I get. Thanks for inquiring. As I said, my approach is far different from most wildlife photographers – I envy them their patience!

      January 22, 2018 at 11:02 am

  2. Alice Pratt

    So the Turkeys are actually ‘pollinators’….or ‘sporinators’

    January 22, 2018 at 1:27 pm

  3. Alice Pratt

    😊 see how much you teach us all, Mary! Interesting that these very large Gobbles get enough nourishment from plant foraging, to stay warm & keep growing their feathers, which must take lots of energy!

    January 22, 2018 at 3:22 pm

  4. Char Delabar

    Thanks Mary. Those tracks didn’t look like my back yard turkey tracks. Gotta love our New England wild turkeys. Char


    January 22, 2018 at 9:15 pm

  5. Char Delabar

    Hi Mary, My daughter who lives in Huntington Beach, CA sent me two pictures of a wee nestling Ana’s hummingbird that hatched in Jan. I couldn’t identify the tree from the close up picture which I’ll send in a different email. This was Vicki’s reply.

    Now, my question is: Where do our ruby throated HB’s put their nests. I have a few pairs each Summer. But not as many last Summer. I’m not a walker so haven’t seen any nests hanging over a sidewalk like we saw when we lived in Costa Mesa, CA

    Thank you in advance. Char Delabar > Subject: Re: Baby Hummingbird > > Hi Char – it’s a ficus tree and the nest is between 6 and 7 ft from the ground. In typical hummingbird fashion the nest is on one of those flimsy outer limbs. When the Santa Ana’s were blowing last week the hummer in its nest looked like a sailor in the roughest of seas! The nest is at the top of the photo – it gives you a good perspective. > > I would assume that all hummingbirds would build nests on outer limbs of a tree because they don’t want to get caught up in more dense vegetation. >> >

    February 2, 2018 at 10:08 pm

    • Hi Char,
      Here’s what Birds of North America Online (Cornell) has to say about where ruby-throat nest sites:

      Nest Site

      Selected by female alone. Usually near tip of down-sloping branch with fairly open area beneath nest and leaf canopy above. Tree species used include oak (Quercus spp.), hornbeam (Carpinus spp.), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), poplar (Populus spp.), hackberry (Celtis spp.), and pine (Pinus spp.) (Bent 1940a, RRS). In s. Ontario, prefers deciduous trees to conifers (Peck and James 1987). Availability of nearby nectar and insects presumed important. Nest sometimes near or directly above water (Bent 1940a). Nests also found on loops of chain, wire, and extension cords (RRS). Nest height ranges from 0.5 to 15 m (average height 5–7 m; RRS). Unusual nest in Connecticut, apparently unused, built 0.5 m from ground attached to upright shoot of smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) (Saunders 1954).”

      February 4, 2018 at 12:55 pm

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