As I was leaving the forest this evening, about the time when it’s almost dark, a loud clumsy flapping in a nearby Black walnut tree startled me. It appeared to be a large bird, trying to steady itself on a small limb. Hawk? Owl? In my experience these masters of stealth would never draw so much attention to themselves. As it settled and stretched out its skinny neck, the bird’s identity was apparent. Have you guessed it? Yes, turkeys roost in trees at night.
Moments later another one left the forest floor and flapped its way into the same tree. The two of them walked about on the big limbs of the walnut, forty feet up, obviously not quite satisfied with their choice of a roost. It occurred to me they would make a plain mark for the Great Horned Owls. Though it’s not common, these owls have been known to land next to a roosting turkey, and edge it out to the end of the limb so it has to fly. Once in the air or on the ground the turkey is doomed – the owl quickly dives and strikes the turkey’s head with its talons.
One of my forest friends asked a couple days ago if I’d seen the turkeys lately. The two have been spotted throughout the forest since last summer, even in some rather unexpected places! Since they haven’t been around lately, I was worried that perhaps coyotes had gotten them. Adult turkeys are pretty good at evading coyotes, but sitting hens, eggs and poults are easy food for coyotes and most other predators.
But the real question is how did they get here? Somehow I can’t imagine turkeys just strolling through the neighborhoods. Perhaps they moved along the freeway corridor, and exited I-264 where it goes over the South Fork of Beargrass Creek. My anecdoctal evidence that turkeys move along freeway corridors is this – the only other turkey I’ve seen in metro Louisville was in Seneca Park just downhill from I-64.