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Fall Flocks of Jakes

This Turkey Tuesday is about what is occurring in those flocks of jakes many of us are seeing at this time of year. If you’ve been lucky to see flocks of turkeys this fall, you may have noticed that flocks are segregated by sex – for males, they’re also segregated by age. You’ll see flocks of toms, and you’ll see flocks of jakes. These flocks of jakes contain birds hatched from the same clutch, along with birds that spent time with each other all summer when they were in brood flocks. In other words, within these groups of jakes, some are siblings, whereas some are not related. Furthermore, within these flocks of jakes, fall is a time to sort through and establish who will be the dominant bird within the group – like those in this picture taken by Steve Spurlock. We often think of dominance and pecking orders when we think of toms, but those pecking orders are initially established well before birds reach adulthood. In fact, fights to establish pecking orders begin not long after hatching and continue throughout the bird’s life. By the time males hatched this year get to fall, when we call them jakes, they’ve been fighting to establish dominance amongst themselves for many months. Those contests will continue into next spring and beyond, as jakes try to put themselves in a position to ultimately be the dominant adult bird in the group. The take home is, the drive to establish and maintain dominance in the turkey world begins early, and for young males, is often in full display as fall transitions into winter and we count the days until spring.

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