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

Turkey fight, you may not like this one

Yesterday, about the time I was getting ready for my daily walk, I heard a commotion going on right under my window. It was two turkeys fighting, along with a crowd of other turkeys “cheering” the combatants on. Some people may be disturbed by some of the photos I took, so you are warned you may not like this one. I was there, and I was somewhat disturbed by what I saw and heard. There was no blood or guts or anything like that, and after viewing the photos today, I think the sounds had a lot to do with my reaction to the events yesterday.

But before I get to the photos, and to give you time to back out of this if you don’t want to see turkeys battling it out,  some other news.

Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning Ranch has made good on its promise to appeal a judge’s decision that they are required to remove the entire dam they own on the Pigeon River. The dam under the ownership of Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning Ranch has been responsible for two major fish kills on the Pigeon. This means the case will be tied up in the courts for years Not good news in my opinion.

In other news, a number of snowy owls have been spotted all across west Michigan. They are normally found much farther north of here, up in Canada. No one is quite certain why the owls have moved south for the winter this year, it could be because of the food supply the owls feed on, or the weather. The migration happens irregularly, but it isn’t unheard of, I’ve been lucky enough to have spotted one of the snowy owls one of the other times they visited. I hope I can get a photo this time.

On to the turkey fight, as I said, I heard it as I was getting ready to go for a walk, so I hurried and got outside in time to get some photos of the fight. I’ll start with two of the “cheering” section skulking off as I approached the fighters.

Skulking turkeys

As I wrote in the post “For Turkey Day, the turkey dance“, I had never seen an all out fight between turkeys before, a little pushing, a little shoving, and maybe a few pecks, but nothing like this.

The beak lock of fighting turkeys

The beak lock of fighting turkeys

I thought that maybe the two had gotten stuck together, but I guess that’s the way turkeys fight. One grabs the other by the head, and then it is basically a shoving match between the two as they push each other around.

The beak lock of fighting turkeys

Be the soft-hearted dummy that I am, I thought that if I got close enough, the two combatants would stop fighting due to their fear of humans, wrong! You see the other turkeys in the background? Of course you do. As I would first approach the protagonists, the others would move away a short distance as you can see in the photo above. But, when I would get even closer to try to break up the fight, the other turkeys would come after me! I got a few pecks on the legs, and slapped with wings a couple of times for my attempts to break up the fight. I’m not sure if the other turkeys were trying to protect the fighters from myself, that’s not the feeling I got at the time. It felt as though the other turkeys were attacking me for trying to break up the fight!

It was a bit surreal, the two main fighters going at each other, I could hear their heavy breathing from the exertion of the shoving match.

Turkeys fighting

And when one didn’t have the other in a beak lock, they would peck at each other.

The beak lock of fighting turkeys

The entire time the other turkeys were lurking a little way away, ready to attack me if I got too close, or to join in the fight when I was farther away.

Another skulker

Most of the time, the others were circling the two combatants, taking turns pecking and beating the fighters with their wings, as if encouraging the fight to continue.

Turkey fight

Sometimes little scuffles would break out among the skulkers.

Turkey fight

But for the most part, they kept egging the two main fighters on.

The two fighting turkeys surrounded by the skulkers

I think it was the sounds of the fight that bothered me more than the sight of it all. The two main fighters were making some sounds, mostly heavy breathing and maybe a cackle or two now and then, but the skulkers never quit clucking, cackling, and gobbling as the fight went on.

Turkey fight

The two main fighters would break from their beak locks on one another for a few seconds and try to stare the other down…..

The two fighting are on the left edge of this photo

…then lunge at the other again…

Turkeys fighting

At one point, the two fighting entwined their necks together like two snakes, and as I was raising the camera to get a picture of it, I swear that I saw fear in the eyes of the one as the other looked like it was trying to choke the first by using its neck to strangle the first one. I hesitated for a moment, so I didn’t get a photo of it, it is probably just as well.

The skulkers kept circling, with a lot of displaying going on..

A turkey displaying

I don’t know why they moved off, but they did…

Turkey display

…and they left the two fighters to duke it out…

Turkey fight

…more pushing and shoving..

Turkey fight

Turkey fight

Turkey fight

Turkey fight

Turkey fight

Turkey fight

Turkey fight

Turkey fight

when for no reason that I could see, one broke off the fight and started to run away…

The losing turkey

The winner rejoined the skulkers….

The winner

Then there was a lot more displaying, but not full displays like in the turkey dance, but the fight was over.

Turkey display

I had never seen turkeys fight like that before, it was a lot more intense being there than it looks in the photos. I think the two fighting were young Toms, deciding which of them was going to “rule the roost”, but I’m not sure about that. Several of the skulkers looked to be older Toms, I am not that familiar with turkey behavior.

I finished my walk, then went back to near where the fight had been, and the turkeys were still there sunning themselves.

A turkey preening in the sun

Turkey in the sun

Anyway, I hope no one was offended by the photos, it isn’t as if I some how encouraged the turkeys to fight, in fact, I still have the wounds from trying to break the fight up. I should know better than that, nature isn’t always pretty, but it is always spectacular and interesting, even when it offends our human sensibilities.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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4 responses

  1. A great post, about nature, and the survival of the fittest. 🙂

    December 13, 2011 at 2:59 pm

  2. Northern Narratives

    Very interesting post. I do not know much about turkey behavior but now I am sure to do some reading about turkeys.

    The snowy owls have also come down to Minnesota. I have never seen one so I have my eyes watching and my camera with me 🙂

    December 13, 2011 at 3:59 pm

  3. I have 23 wild Turkeys that visit me on a daily basis….and when they do this beak lock in my back yard pushing each other around….I go out and break it up…I walk into them and Clap my hands together, and say HEY BREAK IT UP…and they do…Then I feed them some Black Sunflower Seeds…there Favorite,,,Tommy in Castle Rock Colo..

    September 27, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    • Thanks for the tip Tommy!

      September 28, 2013 at 1:21 am