Saturday, July 31, 2021

Wild Turkeys Through My Window

Most of them (all?) had "beards". 

A Wild Turkey’s “beard” is the tuft that looks a bit like a miniature horsetail dangling from its breast. Year-old males have beards up to about five inches long, while toms three or more years old can have beards that are 10 inches or longer. Rarely, a tom will have one primary beard and one or two smaller beards just above it. About 5-10 percent of female turkeys may also sport short, thin beards.

The bristles in the cluster of stiff filaments are hair-like, but they are not hair. They are feather-like structures called mesofiloplumes. Their structural proteins are similar to those of feathers, but they lack a follicle and other characteristics of most feathers. Unlike feathers, turkey beards grow continuously. However, they suffer from wear and tear, so beards longer than 12 inches are not common.

Interesting history on turkeys in Wisconsin. 

Wild turkeys are native to parts of Wisconsin, in an area roughly south of a line from Prairie du Chien to Green Bay. They served as an important food source for settlers and Native Americans alike. But, by the year 1881, wild turkeys disappeared from Wisconsin. Settlement and an increase in farming and logging led to the clearing of the state's oak forests. The raising of domestic birds resulted in the spread of diseases to wild turkeys. Unregulated hunting also took its toll. The last turkey sighting in Wisconsin was near Darlington in Lafayette County in 1881.

In 1976, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources made a trade with the state of Missouri in order to bring wild turkeys back to Wisconsin. We gave them ruffed grouse; they gave us wild turkeys. The first 29 wild Missouri turkeys were released in Vernon County. The turkeys thrived in their new home and began to breed and increase their population. As the number of turkeys increased, the DNR began to trap them from areas with lots of turkeys and move them to other good turkey habitat areas. Over 3,000 turkeys were trapped and relocated in 49 counties. Turkeys moved into other counties on their own.

In 2014, the latest figure I could find, there were 7.3 million turkeys sold in the State of WI, most of them raised within 50 miles of our farm. Jennie-O is the big operator.  I buy turkey litter from them and have it spread on our fields as fertilizer.

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