SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – My wife and I frequently see groups of wild turkeys roaming in the neighborhood or through the woods behind our house, pecking at some of the birdseed that falls on the ground from our feeders. They’re usually in groups of five or six but sometimes as many as 11 have come to pay their respects in the winter, and we’re always flattered that they feel safe on our property. There’s usually one male watching over his harem and of course the group scoots away if ever I open the back door to snap their picture, but still it’s nice to know they’re brave enough to risk a free meal when we remain quiet and unobserved.
One morning in early May we saw a lone female turkey slowly strut by but much to our surprise there were none others behind. A solitary turkey, something we had never before seen. I figured that perhaps she had gotten separated from the flock, being detained by a particularly juicy morsel, but apparently that wasn’t the case since we saw her several times afterwards and always alone. Though she didn’t appear to be concerned or in any distress, always taking her time to stop and peck at things of interest, I wondered what could have made her an outcast from the family. Maybe she had gotten into a spat with her sisters or had spurned the amorous overtures of the Tom, but whatever it was she seemed perfectly content to be on her own without so much as a cell phone to contact 911 in an emergency.
For a while this independent bird disappeared but when seeing her again, much to our surprise and delight she was accompanied by a brood of nine baby poults that followed her every move. This wasn’t the first time I had seen turkey chicklettes but they had always been in the midst and under the protective eyes of a bunch of adults. I know that turkeys can take care of themselves, being fierce when provoked or when feeling threatened, but I never thought that one would take on the daunting task of being a sole parent with so many babies to rear. It was all my wife and I could do to raise two kids together, and here was a single mother trying to nurture nine. Wow.
Mom and her clutch came by a few times thereafter, enchanting us with their presence as we watched them grow, but eventually faded into the woods never to return until a week or so ago when the same, or maybe another hen reappeared with a new bunch of babies. Not only have they visited several times since, but once even when I was sitting in the back yard reading. I can’t believe the mother wasn’t aware of my presence since she and her brood cautiously circumvented my position as she chirped for her chicks to follow, and it struck me that no parent could be any more doting or devoted to the safety of her young.
I wish that momma bird every success and hope that on every Mother’s Day she gets lots of presents and visits from her many little ones, showing respect and gratitude for her many sacrifices. Of course, if those offsprings are like so many other children I wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were her. However, without pens, phones, or fingers, this is one mother who will understandably and justifiably be able to lament “they never call, they never write.”