Ben Franklin wanted the Wild Turkey to be America’s symbol to the world. Considering the way we toss around the word “turkey” (“Boy, that movie was a turkey!”), it’s just as well Ben didn’t get his wish!
The Mating Ritual Begins
As days get longer, this signals the beginning of the turkey mating season. Generally, the season takes place in March and April.
The tranquil lives of these birds suddenly starts to change. Gobblers (mature males) that have travelled together all winter, separate. Jakes (young males) leave the hens and the hens start dreaming of new youngsters (poults).
These birds begin to act more aggressively (against their own gender) and the talking increases. Gobbling, generally, has two very active phases.
As sexual excitement starts to build, the gobbling increases. Gobblers are calling to females, expecting them to come to the male’s call.
Hunting Season Comes During Mating Season
There’s a major season of mating and then a shorter, later season, when females are starting to nest. At this point, males are more insistent and aggressive.
Lots of turkey hunters think that gobblers get sloppy during this later season — and are easier to catch off-guard.
Game wardens set turkey season during this time of increased activity. The birds are paying more attention to each other — rather than to hunters.
The Male Turkeys
All males operate through a rigid pecking order. The dominant male mates the most.
Since males are not worrying about taking care of any newborns, they have plenty of time to preen, strut and spit (the spit sounds like a sharp -‘fsssst’).
Uninterrupted, the large birds take only seconds to mate. After a male finishes mating with one hen, he immediately looks for another.
Mating Season for the Hen
A few weeks before breeding, hens are looking for a nesting area, away from their winter roosting area. She builds the nest on the ground, concealed in dead tree debris, in dense grass, etc.
After mating, she tends to lay ~ an egg/day. Over the span of 10 – 15 days, she lays ~ a dozen eggs.
Before and after laying, she will feed and and rest in the near vicinity of her nest. Once incubation begins, she begins to talk and turn over her eggs. Incubation lasts between 26 and 28 days.
The dozen, or so, poults are born over the span of 18 hours, using an “egg tooth” to chip his way out of the egg. Amazingly, the chipping is in a fairly straight line around the wider edge of the egg.
This blog is a companion to my website: GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com