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Wild Turkey Pictures Tell a Story

This Turkey Tuesday is about the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. A great picture often tells many stories, and this pic of a tom taken by Clayton Worrell certainly fits that bill! First, notice the white barring in the 2 tail feathers, those being the paired feathers at the center of the tail. That barring is the result of a genetic trait in some populations that causes the abnormal plumage – the fact that the 2 feathers both show the abnormality is a great example of bilateral symmetry – basically the 2 feathers that are paired with each other mirror each other. Second, notice how perfect every feather is on this tom. The primary wing feathers (with white bars) show no wear, the secondaries to the right of them and the coverts covering the upper part of the wing lay like new shingles on a roof – all the result of molting (feather replacement) being recently completed. This tom now has a new set of feathers with maximum waterproofing that will also be ready to attract hens next spring. Third, this pic shows clearly why the beard (a type of feather) doesn’t usually grow to be much longer than 11-12 inches although interestingly, beards grow continuously. The beard drags the ground when the tom bends to feed which wears the tips constantly and keeps the beard at a fairly constant length. The take home is every picture of a wild turkey reveals volumes about the bird’s ecology if we take the time to study and appreciate it.

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