Right now it’s mating season for a bird that some Native Americans used to think wasn’t worth hunting. They thought these birds were just too stupid, and eating one of them would dull the hunter’s warlike tendencies. That bird is the wild turkey. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.
ambience: Turkey tree call
Today, most hunters have no qualms about stalking turkeys, and during mating season, this call – or a reasonable imitation, should attract females of the species.
When a male wild turkey is looking for a mate, he’ll fly up into a tree, start gobbling, and hope for the best. Then, when the couple meet, they engage in an elaborate courtship dance, posturing and posing in a kind of a pre-mating check-up.
Millions of wild turkeys can be found performing this ritual throughout the country, in 49 of the 50 states. But according to James Earl Kennemer, the Vice President of Conservation Programs for the National Wild Turkey Federation, not long ago the population of turkeys had dropped dangerously low. Only recently have conservation efforts allowed the birds to regain their numbers.
“The wild turkey was at it’s lowest point around the turn of the century, probably numbered around 30,000 turkeys. They had essentially retreated into some of the areas that were inaccessible to man, because a lot of the country had been cleared for farming about the turn of the century. When the Depression came and we started reverting back into some of the old fields and some of the timbered areas coming back, it set the stage for the wild turkey to come back. So from that 30,000 from around the turn of the century, we’re around 4 million today and that’s a million more than we had in 1986. So it’s really a marvel in the conservation movement.”
Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I’m Jim Metzner.