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Self-Care for Wild Turkeys

This Turkey Tuesday is about self-care and what that looks like in the wild turkey world. With turkey seasons closed or winding down in many places, us turkey hunters are realizing that we have failed to take care of ourselves over the past few months! We could all likely use a little self-care. But in the wild turkey world, self-care is a part of the normal daily routine – specifically, birds spending time preening themselves. If you’ve been blessed to watch wild turkeys this time of year, you likely noted that they spend a lot of time preening – several hours each day. Preening involves the bird using its beak to position feathers, which ensures they are correctly aligned and that barbules on the feathers interlock – the interlocking barbules help weatherproof the bird. When turkeys preen, they also take secretions from the uropygial gland (2nd pic) at the base of the tail and spread them onto the feathers – these secretions are oily and mostly fatty acids, so spreading them on the feathers increases the life of the feathers and ensures they remain fully functional. Interestingly, one reason that you see turkeys preen a lot at this time is that with breeding season ending, molting is about to begin – meaning they’re about to start replacing feathers. So, the feathers turkeys are currently sporting are “old” – they’ve been wearing them for many months. Therefore, it makes sense that turkeys need to take a few hours each day to take care of those feathers. The take home is self-care is a normal part of the daily routine for wild turkeys, there’s much to be said for that in our hectic world!

Pics © Tes Randle Jolly

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