It was 5AM. Other than the last quarter moon there was no light in the woods behind my house. As it was a Sunday morning, there was hope that nearby route 9 would be quieter than usual. A flock of 18-20 wild turkeys have been visiting the woods here in the last few weeks. They are so shy that I can’t even be inside the blind that I have had set up in these woods for nearly 3 years. Somehow, they know that I am in there. As soon as they finish running up the hill to the area were the spilled seed from the bird feeders can be found, they sense that I am there and run off. So, in order to record some of the sounds from this flock I set up the SASS microphones and the digital recorder in the dark of pre-dawn. Setting an arbitrary recording level and hoping that nothing would be louder than this setting is something of an art and just plain dumb luck.
After returning to the house and examining the recordings I was astonished that there were no gobbles from displaying male turkeys. There was however, something amazing and like nothing that I have ever heard before. Apparently, there were at least two hens that were not having a good morning. These “two” hens began clucking and smacking one another with their wings — I think. From the time stamp on the recording this would have transpired around 7:30AM. A male Eastern Phoebe is flying around in the background doing some interesting calls. Some are flight song segments and others are more typical song elements. He, too, sounds rather upset.
Wild Turkey hens fighting. Berkeley, County, WV. April 4, 2010, ©Wil Hershberger.
Early in the week this large male “Tom” was displaying for several hens. I was recording using a remote recording technique. Here the mics were outside and a cable was strung into my house, a great blind, to the recorder where I could easily monitor the recording session and make recording level adjustments as needed. Listening carefully to this recording you might be able to hear the low frequency sounds that the Tom’s wings make while he is gobbling. There is also a low pitched sound after the first and last gobbles that seems to be coming from the Tom. I can only speculate that this must be some low volume, low pitched sound that he is producing for the hens. Or, perhaps this is associated with inflating his air sacs for the next gobble.
He certainly looks regal with his blue head and dark iridescent plumage. He droops his wings, the tips just touching the ground, as if to cover his legs. He lifts the feathers on his body to puff himself up looking much bigger than when he is at rest. He also fans that magnificent tail. In younger males the center tail feathers are longer than the rest of the tail. They really stand out in the crowd. The older, breeding aged, Tom’s tails are even at the tips.
Wild Turkey Tom gobbling. Berkeley, County, WV. April 2, 2010, ©Wil Hershberger.