My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

For Turkey Day, the Turkey Dance

Since Thanksgiving is Thursday, a day that normally features a huge meal centered around a stuffed turkey, I thought I would post a few turkey photos.

Back when I was a kid growing up, there were no turkeys here in Michigan, they had been wiped out by over hunting. It’s been a while, so my memory may not be 100% correct on this, but I think that back in the early 1970’s, the State of Michigan swapped some trout eggs from one of the hatcheries with either some turkey eggs or poults from the State of Missouri. However Michigan obtained the turkeys, the rest as they say is history, and a great history at that. The re-introduction of wild turkeys here in Michigan has been a huge success!

Wild Turkey

Now there are turkeys in every county in Michigan again.

Wild Turkey

But you need more than one turkey for a turkey dance. There are actually two turkey dances from what I have seen. One is done by females and juveniles as they determine their pecking order within the flock. If you have ever seen domestic chickens, it is about the same thing, but I have never seen turkeys actually peck each other the way domestic chickens do. But they do circle and bully the lower ranking member of the flock, and force them to the outside edges of the flock. That’s not the focus of this post though, the turkey dance I am going to highlight is the one done by the males, known as Toms or gobblers.

Wild Turkey

For this dance, the gobblers spread their tail feathers, drop their wing-tips almost to the ground, and ruff out the rest of their feathers to make themselves look as large as possible. In addition their wattles and snoods, the flap of flesh dangling from above their beaks swell, and turn red, blue, or sometimes white.

Wild Turkey

Then, if there is more than one male, the dance begins.

Wild Turkeys

Of course it is a mating dance, with each male trying to make himself as attractive to the females as he can, along with intimidating the other males.

Wild Turkey

It is a very slow dance, each male turns in slow circles, showing off to the females.

Wild Turkey

At the same time as they circle, they also circle around the other males, trying to gain the best position to show off from.

Wild Turkey

I have never seen them actually bump or push each other, but they come close at times.

Wild Turkey

The dance continues

Wild Turkey

The dance is also called strutting.

Wild Turkey

And strut they do!

Wild Turkey

Each one trying to out strut the other.

Wild Turkey

These were taken just a few days ago, and of course it’s fall here, so these dances are just the warm up for the real dances in the spring, when turkeys mate.

Wild Turkey

When the males do their strutting, it is one time when you can approach them fairly close. That holds true of many species of critters, when they have mating on their mind, they are much easier to get close to them. Whether it is a male songbird singing to find a mate…

Cedar waxwing

Or a whitetail buck thrashing the brush to notify other males in the area that this is his territory.

Whitetail buck

The mating season for most animals makes them at least somewhat crazy, just as it does we humans. It is a good time for photographers, as you can normally approach animals more closely, but you do need to use some caution around larger animals, such as deer, elk, and of course, bears. They can turn and charge in an instant, and I have seen one guy get thrown by a bull elk out in Yellowstone, and another nearly trampled by a bison. It is said that few animals are as ornery as a bull moose during the rut, and I know one person who was chased up a tree by one.

If you want to take photos of animals, then knowing when their mating seasons are, and what their mating habits are, can help you to get closer than you normally could. Most animals and birds are in their finest form in the mating season, and make better subjects for photographers then as well.

Thanks for stopping by, and don’t overdo it on the turkey on Thanksgiving, we need a few left to do the turkey dance next year.

Wild Turkey


6 responses

  1. Great turkey photos, Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. 🙂

    November 22, 2011 at 3:05 pm

  2. Happy Thanksgiving!

    November 22, 2011 at 4:50 pm

  3. Thank you for the nice wild turkey photo story. I’ve never seen a wild turkey before. They are definitely better looking than the domestic kind. I wish I was there to shoot them. 🙂

    November 24, 2011 at 9:21 am

  4. Great photos! Ohio has wild turkeys again as well, having been reintroduced decades ago- glad that they’re back.

    November 26, 2011 at 4:48 pm

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