May 312014

My mornings and evenings have been punctuated by some all-American sound and action for the last couple of weeks. My house seems to be home-central for a flock of wild turkeys.

The action starts right around 6am, with a parade. This morning the parade started just up the street from me, and proceeded apace right past my house. First came two hens, casually wandering down the center of the road, occasionally foraging off on the side for whatever turkey hens find interesting (acorn earrings? dragon fly hats? the mind can only speculate…) Then came the clowns and marching band. Two young males strutted, posed, fanned and pursued, like teen-age body-builders in full tanning and flexing form.


The show continued for a good ten minutes, as though my bedroom were the grandstand. The posing, pirouetting and casual female browsing proceeded with utter dedication, ignoring a passing cyclist and the guffaws from the neighborhood crows. The second clown arrived to make the show truly competitive, while the hens pointedly ignored all. Finally the girls seemed to tire of the browsing, and dove off into the department store that is Fairfax Creek, leaving the marching band in confusion. The sounds died down, and after milling about for a few minutes, the band members wandered into the department store in silence. Appreciative crows landed in the roadway, inspecting the parade route for anything interesting that might have been dropped along the way. Later, I could see the parade resume in the distance, proceeding across the field on the other side of the creek with all the same masculine enthusiasm and feminine disinterest.


The morning parade has repeated every day this week, but is only part of the entertainment that this flock brings. There seem to be about six, three hens and three toms (aack! why are turkeys called that?) There is a larger daily pattern that is bemusing to watch. Every evening just past sunset, they move up the hill behind my house, perhaps do another little parade, then one by one fly over the house into the trees across the street, where they settle for the night. Once I happened to be in the living room just as a tom got up onto the roof with a spooky loud scratching sound, then ran down the slope, clack-clack-clack! to launch airborne and glide into the trees. The noise tipped me off that something big was on the roof, but nothing could prepare me for the surprise of an eight-foot-wide feathered 747 gliding directly over the front of the house, scarcely six feet away from my nose.

These ungainly and laughable birds are surprisingly graceful in flight, with all the majesty and stability of the biggest aircraft. I’ve seen them glide through openings in trees scarcely a foot wider than their wingspan. Earlier this week, the three hens flew with huge synchronized flaps across the street and up the hill just as I was arriving home from work. I imagine these birds are brainless, perhaps because of the silly noise they make and repetitive morning parade, perhaps because we call a stupid thing a ‘turkey’. But they honestly seem well-equipped to their environment, using the hillside for effortless take-offs, and landing gracefully in the tops of tall trees with a single flap.

The best part is living in the middle of all this natural rhythm and entertainment. l am delighted to feel their presence, like the occasional owl and the red-tailed hawk nesting across the valley, the deer trotting down the street in the evening, and rarely, a raccoon peering into the upper windows, watching us fix dinner. I’m on the edge of town, with an unfenced yard that connects directly to open space. Choosing to build a house and live here nine years ago, I had no idea what the reality would feel like, and I am fortunate indeed to be here. Every silly move the turkeys make reminds me to smile, as well as laugh.

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