Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The World's Ugliest Turkey Head

Tikal's Gran Plaza.


On Wednesday, March 5, 2008, I was part of a group of international birders who spent the day enjoying the birds, animals, people, and the stone temples of Tikal, the ancient Maya city in northeast Guatemala. In the mid-afternoon we encountered a small flock of ocellated turkeys foraging in the shade behind Temple IV. The birds were accustomed to hordes of people walking past them, so we were able to get close for some full-frame shots.

Tikal is famous as a place to see the ocellated turkey, one of only two native turkey species in the world—the other being the wild turkey of North America. The OTs at Tikal are tame because they are not persecuted. Most other places in this bird's range they are hunted because they are a large wild creature packing a lot of tasty meat.

I shot 100 or so images of the ocellateds. They have incredibly ugly heads (blue with orange 'warts') balanced somewhat by gorgeous iridescent body feathers. I thought they might actually win the prize for ugliest bird head.

Little did I know it, but just 40 hours later I would be up close to a flock of wild turkeys in Raymond, Nebraska. They were coming in to a feeding station at the home of our hosts and friends Steve and Cheryl Eno. I shot another 100 frames of the world's OTHER turkey species from point-blank range, but through the glass pane of a window.

Several of the males were getting their snoods in an uproar, fanning their tails and sending the blood rushing to where it would have the most apparent effect. After all, it was a sunny day and there were some gallinaceous hotties nearby.

This got me pondering: Which Turkey Has The Ugliest Head?

Is it the ocellated turkey of the Central American jungle?
Or is it the wild turkey of North America.
America, we await your votes.
With only two native turkey species in the world, the winner of this contest can lay claim to the title:

The World's Ugliest Turkey Head!

First, the ocellated turkey: hairy blue head with orange lumps and red eye skin.





Second, our wild turkey contestants in various states of arousal, from least to most:





Please use the comment button below to register your vote. Vote early, vote often, but please vote. We will tally the results and pick a winner by the end of the day Wednesday, March 26, 2008.

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31 Comments:

At 9:06 AM, Blogger Snail said...

Well, you know, I'm having a hard time separating the last two. I think number 8 (second last) because a) the neck wattles look like congealed fat and b) the eye is the saving grace of the others.

Sorry. You didn't want a three-volume explanation, did you!

 
At 9:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

given the warts, it has to be the ocellated turkey.

 
At 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

C'mon those orange tubercles are too cute. Definitely wild turkey, definitely wild turkey.

 
At 11:15 AM, Blogger Lynne said...

I love our wild turkeys- I think they are lovely. Really.
The ocellated turkey is pretty too, but those orange things remind me of ticks.

 
At 11:33 AM, Blogger Dave said...

Well, a little penecillian should clear up that nasty Ocellate's issue so I'll have to vote for "our" Turkey (whom I dearly love on the hoof and on the table)

Dave
www.mi-birder.com

 
At 12:00 PM, Blogger BT3 said...

What amazes me is that the males of 'our' wild turkey that I photographed were doing their engorgement thing in 8-degree weather in Nebraska!

Now THAT'S a manly man.

 
At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Iris said...

The wild turkey is uglier by a country mile and then some. No fantastic orange warts = much less attractive in my book. That goes for everything, by the way, not just turkeys.

 
At 12:20 PM, Blogger Eva Matthews said...

I'm with you on that congealed fat look...so I'm voting for our wild turkey as the ugliest. The Ocellated has brillant colors; I love those orange "warts."

 
At 2:16 PM, Blogger Andy said...

Wild Turkey for sure: anything that possesses a structure called a snood" wins an Ugly contest by default...

 
At 3:11 PM, Blogger Jenbuster said...

The Ocellated turkey's colors are fabulous, but the yellow tubercles look like huge inflated ticks. A phobia of mine. Gives me the heeby geebies just thinking about it!

 
At 3:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Definitely the north america wild turkey. I think the ocellated turkey is pretty handsome in comparison.

 
At 3:56 PM, Blogger Trixie said...

I must throw my vote to the North American Wild Turkey. Good heavens, he looks nasty and kind of has a look to his eyes. And all that neck action, yikes! Yup, NAWT. Now, where's that bottle of Wild Turkey? Hmmmm....

 
At 4:03 PM, Blogger ncmountainwoman said...

I believe it is un-American to vote for the wild turkey and if this blog is being monitored (and of course it is), some of you are in big trouble. Well, maybe not Trixie.

The ocellated turkey is uglier by far.

 
At 4:06 PM, Blogger ncmountainwoman said...

Sorry, Trixie. I mistakenly thought you were in Canada. Guess you are in trouble as well.

 
At 4:48 PM, Blogger Butmonky said...

How can you call something with all those beautiful colors ugly??
They are both quite gorgeous. No wonder we almost had the wild turkey as our official bird. I sometimes have purple hair and skin tags around my neck. I've been called ugly by strangers-but I don't care.

Sandy B

 
At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The North American wild turkey takes the prize with that red and pink tripe-like folded neck skin, yuk! and the weird hairy protuberance hooking over his beak. At least the ocellated turkey's warts are a brilliant smooth orange, almost eatable like pomegranate seeds....

 
At 5:12 PM, Blogger Julie Zickefoose said...

I am so with you, Sandy. I happen to find erectile turkey tissue captivating, and am offended that the word "ugly" even appears in the same sentence as "turkey." This admiration I harbor is quite adaptive in females, by the way.

For those of you grossed out by the ocellated turkey's ticklike caruncles, I will add that they wobble when it walks, something I find charming.

 
At 6:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wobbly caruncles! YUK!!!
BUT that "snood" takes the cake. My vote, as a proud American is for our very own wild turkey.

 
At 7:54 PM, Blogger littleorangeguy said...

Well the ugliest Wild Turkey head is obviously what one has after one too many shots of bourbon.

Signed,
A Loyal Canadian

 
At 8:39 PM, Blogger Tom said...

My vote goes to.........


The Ocellated Turkey.

The orange bumps really gross me out.

Tom

 
At 9:55 PM, Blogger Mary said...

Ocellated turkey. I didn't even have to think about it. The warts are a real turn-off.

I wonder about Lynne sometimes...and Julie likes the way the warts wobble? Charming?

Come on!

 
At 9:56 PM, Anonymous Mark said...

Ocellated. Too weird to be true. Besides, I've never seen one, and until I see it, how can it be real to me?

 
At 10:03 PM, Blogger KatDoc said...

What an ocell-lotta turkeys (and turkey comments)!

I cast my vote, reluctantly, for the North American Wild Turkey.

~Kathi

 
At 11:00 PM, Blogger BT3 said...

I feel like Wolf Blitzer covering the presidential election for CNN...

"With just 17 hours until the polls close, the wild turkey currently has almost double the votes that the ocellated turkey has.

Clearly, Americans prefer their own homegrown turkey to some warty foreigner.

WiTu=12 OcTu=7

We are, however, still waiting for Dade County, Florida and Cuyahoga County, Ohio to report in...

Now back to Soledad O'Brien in Atlanta..."

 
At 11:39 PM, Blogger elizabird said...

Tikal turkeys are gorgeous! I love the orange warts.
Love love love.

 
At 11:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our very own wild turkey gets my vote for ugliest.

 
At 12:13 AM, Blogger Mel said...

Ocellated turkey!
Reminds me of a certain guy I met long ago, with a severe acne case and an exploding 'pimple' scene. I'm sorry for the ocellated, now it's not it's fault, but can't help it...

 
At 6:37 AM, Blogger Jayne said...

I think our wild turkey has him beat in the ugliness department by a mile. Heck, those warts almost look cute comparatively.

 
At 7:03 AM, Anonymous Mike said...

With caruncles on one side and snoods on the other, can we really declare either the loser (or winner) here? Both turkeys are exquisitely grotesque! Still, the edge goes to Wild Turkey.

 
At 9:01 AM, Blogger dguzman said...

Holy God, that's some ugly turkey head action! I gotta go with the last one--that um engorgement thing extending past his beak is truly frightening.

I love that last pic of the ocellated--he's so ugly he's cute--like E.T.

 
At 12:16 PM, Blogger Texas Travelers said...

One photo would have been enough. Only a Mother. Wild Turkey is "less attractive". I like your blog today.
Troy

 

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