Male turkeys don’t gobble all the time. Sometime around now they pack it in for the season, and spend the summer relaxing in the shade. I learned this, and many other fascinating turkey facts from a forest friend who’s also a hunter. Though I did notice big Tom’s gobbling was becoming less frequent, and he wasn’t hanging out by the trail anymore, I didn’t know his looks were changing too.
This was Tom a few weeks ago. While gobbling, he would stand in a sunny patch to ensure his blood-engorged wattle grabbed the attention of any passing hen. His wild eyed look confirmed his state of mind – he was high on testosterone. As with male deer during the rut, there was no rest to be had while unbred females were out there.
So what a surprise to spot him yesterday way up on a dead limb, obviously in a mellower mood than the last time we met. And that bright red wattle gone all flabby and pale! I might have wondered if he was indeed the same bird, were it not for his long beard and pleasantly plump chest. Looking for an explanation, I found this in Roger Latham’s Complete Book of the Wild Turkey.
“The color of a tom’s head and neck change, from a vibrant red (caruncles), white, (crown of the head) and blue (neck and side of face) during the breeding season, to a more subdued red and blue for the rest of the year.”
After a busy spring of beating up on the younger jake turkeys, and mating with all the hens in this forest, he certainly deserves his rest.