So, friends that turkey on your table or someone else’s yesterday was likely NOT a wild turkey. Wild turkeys have been bred as domestics for many years to produce a table turkey with bigger breasts and smaller “other parts” — and those turkeys are unable to fly or run fast — likely they’ve never even been given the chance.
The wild turkeys out there — are not “stupid” as they have been called. In fact, they can fly and run and hide in trees. Due to loss of habitat and over hunting, they were nearly extinct from many parts of our country until a reintroduction program returned populations to the wild. In wooded grasslands they fly beneath the canopy top and land to perch — they also can fly close to the ground for a fourth of a mile or more.
So now, the next part of the story begins — some people are claiming wild turkeys are a nuisance. And so, like the Canada geese, whose numbers fell, then rose again due to reintroduction programs, the turkey will probably soon be maligned in the wild and humans will be crying to lower the populations.
Both these creatures — the Canada goose and the wild turkey — were helped to survive because hunters like them. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not a hunting fan for sure, but if you need to hunt to get a meal to your family, I totally understand. I just hope we can learn that we inadvertently mess with nature and when we try to correct our mistakes by “messing” again, we’d better get it right.
My goal this year or maybe next is to add wild turkey to my Lake County, Illinois list. a long time ago, I saw a mother turkey with her young walking behind her in pairs, at Mississippi Palisades State Park — what a wonderful sight.
This is not the time to be seeing common loons in their full breeding regalia, bright, glowing red eye, smooth jet black plumage and that telltale black striped white band around its neck — and it certainly isn’t the time for it to yodel and court and woo the ladies.
But seeing a common loon even in its winter plumage — and then hearing it yodel — on a cold November day — made me think, spring will come again. And that is very difficult up here in northern Illinois where the winters can be brutal.
My husband and I went to Bangs Lake recently to see migrating ducks, grebes and loons — oodles of coots graced much of the water — their black bodies and white bills seemed to fill the entire space. But amongst them were male and female hooded mergansers, northern shovelers, horned grebes, ruddy ducks and other lovely waterfowl.
We also saw four common loons — in their winter plumage. See the photo above — they are brownish this time of year with dirty white chests, throats and necks. They huddled quietly together, perhaps anticipating their next dive for food and knowing intrinsically they would be flying even farther south as the winter progressed.
While standing on a sandy beach watching the ducks, we suddenly heard the most haunting wonderful sound. A loon was yodeling — softly, reminiscent of its summer. It yodeled a few times, then stopped, and then yodeled a few times more a minute later. If you have never heard a loon yodel, you are missing out on one of the most spectacular natural wonders in the world — and that deep interior feeling of joy, nostalgia, melancholy and peace all gathered together.
Click here — close your eyes and listen. It won’t be the same as if you are there, but it will be beautiful nonetheless.
A common bird, denigrated for its habit of robbing nests of eggs and nestlings, the blue jay often gets overlooked or disdained.
But when West Nile Virus struck — blue jays were dying — and I started to pay more attention to these birds, because they are absolutely stunning especially in winter when all around is gray and dismal.
Look at the gorgeous blue crest and the contrasting black outline starting from the crest and going around the neck. Do you see the little bit of blue on the black bill? Notice the different blue colors in the wings set off by white wing bars.
We scatter corn on the ground and hang peanut feeders, which attract blue jays and give us close looks — we watch as a jay grabs a peanut, stores it in its gullet, then flies away to hide it for later retrieval.
Blue jays are members of the corvid family — the most intelligent of avian families. They make movements in winter based on acorn crops — the larger an acorn crop, the greater the chance blue jays will remain in winter.
Many species of jays exist throughout the world, and are equally as gorgeous — One of them is the Western scrub jay. (See below). I am glad for the presence of jays.
The above photo was taken by Wes Serafin. It’s a Ruddy Turnstone, a shorebird that migrates through Illinois.
Today, I thought I’d offer some places to learn about the birds of Illinois — and as the author of Bird of Illinois, along with Steven D. Bailey, it seems appropriate for me to find some suggestions. Plus the loony bird of the week!
There are loads of birding groups in Illinois, plus a statewide organization that publishes a quarterly journal on birdlife in Illinois (guess who’s the editor?).
So, without further ado, to learn more about birds, visit these sites. Plus, there are lots of local bird clubs out there in various parts of the state. Give these a try.
Illinois Ornithological Society
Chicago Ornithological Society
Chicago Audubon Society
Illinois Audubon Society