An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Posts tagged “wild turkey

Beaked Hazel

2-15-16 beaked hazelnut  268Because of the popularity of hazel nuts, it is surprising to find viable fruits on Beaked Hazel (Corylus cornuta) in mid- to late winter. Ruffed Grouse, Wild Turkey, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Beavers, Snowshoe Hares, Raccoons, Red Squirrels, Eastern Chipmunks and White-footed Mice all vie for these delectable nuts.

This multi-stemmed, wind-pollinated shrub bears fruit that is wrapped in a modified leaf (involucre). Beaked Hazel (as opposed to American Hazel, Corylus americana) is named after the tapering beak-shape of its nuts’ involucres. One might suspect that any fruits remaining on hazel shrubs at this time of year must not be edible, but the photographed specimen was very tasty!

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.

 


Poison Ivy Fruit An Important Spring Resource for Birds

4-9-14 poison ivy fruit 138There are a number of birds that have returned to New England from their southern wintering grounds and are working hard to find enough to sustain themselves until food is more plentiful. Eastern Bluebirds, Hermit Thrushes, Northern Mockingbirds, Eastern Phoebes and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers adapt their diets to whatever is available at this time of year, which can mean going from eating insects to consuming fruit. Fruits that persist through the winter are few and far between, but one of the plants that provides the most sustenance to birds in early spring is Poison Ivy. The off-white, berry-like fruits are extremely popular with at least 60 species of birds, including the early returning migrants previously mentioned, as well as Gray Catbirds, Yellow-shafted Flickers, Wild Turkeys, and Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied and Pileated Woodpeckers. The popularity of Poison Ivy fruit with birds explains why this plant is common along fencerows and other areas where birds roost (and pass the seeds). (Caution – irritating urushiol, an oily resin found in the sap of Poison Ivy, is present in the leaves, stems, flowers, roots and fruit of this plant.)

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.


Staghorn Sumac to the Rescue

3-5-13 A. robin eating sumac IMG_4893They may not be sweet, plump and juicy, but the fruits of staghorn sumac play a crucial role in the lives of many birds that overwinter in New England. True, they’re not a preferred food for these birds, but because they persist through the winter, these fuzzy fruits are an important source of food in late winter and early spring, when very little else is available. Ruffed grouse and wild turkeys rely on sumac fruit as a source of food throughout the winter, and bluebirds, robins, cardinals, mockingbirds and starlings are frequent visitors to staghorn sumac shrubs this time of year.


Hen Turkey with Two Broods

If you look closely, you’ll see that there are two broods accompanying one hen turkey in the photograph — seven smaller, younger poults (nearest the bottom of the photo) and ten larger poults (closer to the top of the photo). Chances are that the hen is not the mother of all the poults. It’s likely that the young of another hen joined a hen and her brood. While this is not common, it is not unusual to see two or more hens with their respective broods flock together during the summer. First year males leave the hens and female poults to form independent flocks in the fall. Females (several hens and their poults) often join together during the winter months forming large flocks, and in the spring, as the breeding season approaches, break up into smaller flocks which will include one or more males.


Mystery Photo Solved!

Well done, those of you who guessed Wild Turkey, which was most of you! Charlotte Carlson not only discovered their nest, but managed to photograph the hen and tom turkey in the act of making the eggs!


Happy Thanksgiving!

A parade of wild turkeys.


Wild Turkey Scat

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought I would express my amazement at the fact that by looking at the shape of wild turkey scat, you can often  tell whether it was deposited by a female or a male turkey, due to the different shapes of their intestinal tracts.  Hen turkey scat is often a round plop, whereas tom turkey scat  tends to look like the letter “J”, or is in a straight line. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

 


Beechnuts

Birds and mammals that rely on beechnuts as a staple of their diet include black bears, white-tailed deer, fishers, porcupines, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, wood ducks, tufted titmice, and numerous small rodents, to name but a few.  There is a good reason for this – beechnuts have about the same protein content as corn, but five times the fat content.  Beechnuts also have nearly twice as much crude protein and twice the fat of white oak acorns and about the same fat content as red oak acorns.  Given the number of husks and nuts that are on the forest floor this fall, it appears that this is a good year for beechnut mast, or seed production.  Research has shown that high beechnut production in the fall is correlated with a high percentage of reproducing female black bears in the coming winter.

 


Wild Turkeys Foraging for Food

This hen turkey is on the lookout for potential danger as she and her passel of young scour an overgrown field for grasshoppers. Often a flock of turkeys will form a line, with the hen near the center, as they advance across a field in search of insects.  In the fall, turkeys also forage for acorns, beechnuts, fruits of black cherry and white ash seeds. They swallow their food whole, where it is then stored in their crop and later moves to their powerful gizzard, which crushes the nuts and seeds into digestible-sized pieces.


Wild Turkeys

 

In the heat wave we’re having, humans aren’t  the only creatures looking for relief.  In the middle of the day this hen turkey and her poults sought cooler temperature in the only shade this pasture offered – a small clump of sugar maples and white pines.  They settled in and did some serious preening before ambling off in search of grasshoppers and other insects to eat. The young males will disperse in the fall, while the female poults will remain with their mother until next spring.


Wild Turkey Nest Predation

It’s fairly obvious that the eggs and young of ground nesting birds are extremely vulnerable. Eggs survive long enough to hatch in only about half of all wild turkey nests.  Predators, typically opportunistic feeders, look for the easiest and most accessible meals available.  Because of this, ground nesting birds, such as the wild turkey, often have a larger clutch of eggs than tree-nesting birds  Raccoons, opossums, skunks, crows and ravens will readily raid a turkey nest.  A nearby field was mowed yesterday, and much to the owner’s dismay, a turkey nest containing eggs was left exposed –  but the 11 eggs were intact.  The mother returned to the now-exposed nest, but upon visiting the nest this morning, a mere 12 hours later, I discovered the nest empty except for one egg which had been emptied of its contents.