Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Turkey Nest

It’s turkey mating season and male Wild Turkeys have been gobbling and displaying for several weeks.  Preferred display sites are those areas of low growing ground cover.  At Blue Jay Barrens, a choice location is the level lawn behind the house.

The whole purpose of the display is to impress a hen enough that she allows the male to approach and mate.  A nesting hen typically visits with a male in the early morning and then sneaks off to lay one egg in her nest.

I was walking along the field trail yesterday morning when I spotted a small cedar showing itself in the Indian Grass.  I always carry a pair of hand pruners on my belt, so I headed out into the field to cut the unwanted cedar.

As I approached, I noticed a dark shape at the base of the cedar.  I quickly backed away a few steps and stopped.

Hidden in the grass was a nesting turkey.  Old books will tell you that turkeys nest in the woods, usually beside a fallen tree trunk.  Blue Jay Barrens has dozens of fallen trees, but none with an accompanying turkey nest.  The most common place to find a turkey nest seems to be in a tall grass field, usually beside a small shrub.

I left the turkey undisturbed and then returned to the nest site later in the day.  As I had hoped, the hen had laid her daily egg and was away from the nest.

The light tan coloration of the eggs allows them to blend well with the dried grass stalks.

The base of the nest is constructed of strands of dried Indian Grass.  There is enough of a base to keep the eggs slightly elevated above the ground.  I hope this was enough to keep them high and dry during last night’s two inch rainfall.

Fifteen eggs is a pretty large clutch size.  This hen should begin incubating soon, unless there’s more than one hen involved.  In some cases, multiple hens will lay eggs in a shared nest site.  I’m not sure how the incubation duties are decided in a situation like that.  At any rate, there should be a batch of young turkeys joining the flock in about four weeks.  I’ll stay away until then and hope the incubation goes well.

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