Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Male wild turkey ready to do what male wild turkeys were born to do.

In bright sunlight, an adult turkey's feathers show beautiful iridescence.

I wonder if any of the Pilgrims or First Peoples at the original Thanksgiving took the time to consider what a cool bird the turkey is. Or did they simply add it to their life list before shooting it with the blunderbuss and dropping it in the big black cauldron? Most ponderable, that.

If you're into learning more about the wild turkey, check out the Peterson Field Guide's video podcast about the species here. Click on the yellow Species Profile tab, then the wild turkey icon.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with lots of reasons to be both happy and thankful. Beware the tryptophan.

—Bill of the Birds

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

America Has Spoken!

Wild turkey: 18 votes as Ugliest Turkey Head in the World.

Ocellated turkey: 8 votes as Ugliest Turkey Head in the World.

The winner in an 18-to-8 gallinaceous romp is: the WILD TURKEY.

If you did not get to cast your vote: there's still time! Our vote-tallying machines had a bit of difficulty counting all the hanging snoods. However, this is America, and like in any important election, we can tweak the voting totals to get exactly the outcome that we want. Or exactly the outcome we most fear.

Thanks for voting. Thanks for commenting. And thanks for being an American (or Canadian, or Peruvian, or [your nationality here]).

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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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