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Blooming Turkeys

Outback Steakhouse may advertise blooming onions, but I know where turkeys bloom in  green fields near my house.  Like a rose going from a tight bud to full summer bloom, those big ol’ gobblers put on a show. Puffing their feathers and spreading their fan-shape tails into a full blown sail, they strut and rattle.  All this action occurs to woo nearby hens that coyly scan the area for insects and greens.

Spring turkey watching is always a treat for nature lovers, but last year it was spectacular.  Timely rains and Jekyll and Hyde temperatures combined to create a dense, green back drop for the annual turkey extravaganza.  Wheat and alfalfa that just a few months earlier appeared anemic and scraggly soaked up an all-day, gentle rain, turning it into a lush, velvety backdrop for those show-off toms.  Brilliant emerald fields highlighted iridescent feathers of toms and hens to dazzle turkey watchers willing to find turkeys to watch.

Four mature long beards starred in the pageant near our home.  A number of jakes or young male turkeys wandered outside the inner circle of strutting toms, snagging a bite here and there while keeping an eye on the show.  My guess is that theywere studying the dance steps so they knew what to do.

The hens, in my opinion, were the most entertaining of all.  While the males fluffed, preened, and strutted, the ladies appeared focused on dining.  Often their heads were to the ground as they moved through chest deep wheat or alfalfa seeking some tasty snack. How they could stand so close to those fluffed feathers, red wattles and blue faces, hearing that rattling sound toms make as they strut in choreographed steps and not notice eludes me? 

As intent as the girls appeared on anything but the toms, you would think they were totally unaware of their suitors’ energetic presentations.  A human male treated in this fashion would abandon his love object in search of greener pastures. If I hadn’t see gangly turkey poults awkwardly following their mothers through fields and down roads in early June, I would have guessed the guys’ efforts were in vain.

While turkeys will always look like lumbering, big-bellied cargo planes as they fly to their evening roost, their spring dance has an unarguable elegance.  On the ground in full strut, the male turkey puts on a show worthy of Las Vegas headlines. When that show coincides with rain-fueled Mother Nature’s greenery as a backdrop, it is even more dazzling.

No matter whether it’s rained a great deal or not through the season, it’s worth a morning drive along western Kansas roads and bordered by wheat fields and alfalfa patches to spy this spring gala. Take any highway or country path and keep your eyes open and your camera ready.  Blooming turkeys under any circumstances will delight you.