Thursday, October 7, 2010

Turkeys as guard animals??

 The black bear in question, just outside our front yard.

Well, yet another new experience with our Midget White turkeys this morning. Just a little while ago, around 9:30 AM, I was in the living room, about to start my writing practice for the day. David had gone upstairs to take a short nap, and it is usually fairly quiet this time of day.

After just a few minutes, the turkeys started making noise in the front yard. Most of the flock of 19 was out there, and they were making that particular noise that we've come to recognize as their warning that a predator was on the ground nearby. (Usually when we've heard this sound and checked it out, it turned out to be deer. They make a very different noise when an aerial predator is overhead.) I stood up and looked out the window, and I could see the flock on high alert, standing still with necks all stretched upward in the same direction, loudly sounding the alarm. I figured there were deer on the other side of the split-rail fence, munching on vetch; lately we've seen a doe and her two fawns in that area frequently.

I opened the front door to get a better view; since David was trying to sleep, I was hoping to get the turkeys to quiet down. I couldn't believe what I saw: a good-sized BLACK BEAR just at the north end of the front yard, about 75 feet from where I stood. It was walking right up into the yard, and all the turkeys were just standing there, squawking loudly, making no move to get away.

I called up to David, and at the same time grabbed my camera and headed upstairs. I hoped to get a photo before the bear left, and I knew I'd have a better vantage point from upstairs. The bear, hearing me call to David, turned away and headed back toward the road and the edge of the canyon. I was just in time to get one decent photo before it disappeared into the trees (I'll post the photo soon). By then the turkeys were beginning to calm down.

I, on the other hand, was having a bit of an adrenaline rush; this was only the third time we've actually seen a bear up here, and both the other times it's been down by the pond, a couple hundred yards from the house. Our property is bordered almost entirely by State land, with our nearest neighbor two miles down the hill, so naturally we have lots of wildlife around. It is very surprising to see a bear so close to the house, especially in the middle of the morning.

It seems to me that it wasn't until this year that we became aware of the turkeys' early-warning systems. We were familiar with the roosters calling out to the hens when an aerial predator was about, warning them to get under cover (an amazing sight to witness), but the turkeys are very consistent in letting us know when a ground visitor arrives. We've even seen the turkeys chasing deer out of the yard!

As we head deeper into the autumn, and the food sources so plentiful in summer become less abundant, we will be keeping our eyes open for hungry predators who show interest in our birds. And we're very grateful for the efforts of the turkeys to help in that process.


  1. The following is a link that has a doctored up photo of a BEAR TURKEY. I love your blog.

  2. The blue swedish duck photo makes me happy!

  3. The ducks are so much fun to watch; they always seem to be having a good time! Thanks for your kind words. :)