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Nature & You: There's no doubting a mother’s love

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A wild turkey hen's chicks stay close to their mother. [US FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE]
A wild turkey hen's chicks stay close to their mother. [US FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE]

There is no doubting a mother’s love

My home is located on the rural outskirts of Oklahoma City. One of the benefits of such a location is I have the advantage of sharing my home’s lawn with a flock of wild turkeys. I get to see the courtship antics of the mature “toms,” as well as having a front-row seat when the hens come in parading a retinue of tiny poults.

Please permit me to use this as a segue into a discussion of the dietary needs of wild turkeys. Logic would dictate that these birds would subsist on grasshoppers and seeds of wild plants. Little did I suppose that a hen turkey would have a penchant for dining on the flesh of a wild hawk.

Let me explain.

I’ll describe an event that took place in my home’s backyard a couple of years back. I had stepped out on my back porch and immediately was made aware of a lot of ruckus and commotion. I discovered I was playing witness to a predator-prey confrontation. A Cooper’s hawk was attempting to capture one of the young turkeys. The hen turkey was, of course, bound and determined to not let that happen. She had her offspring pressed up against the pasture fence, and she also shielded the poults by doing a body block between them and danger.

The hawk was persistent. It made pass after pass in its attempt to out-thwart mom turkey’s defense strategy. The hen turkey was having none of it. She became more and more agitated. Eventually, she reached her breaking point, and she launched herself into space. The hawk and the turkey were flying full-speed nose-to-nose. A mid-air collision was imminent.

Retreat proved the better part of valor.

It was the hawk that turned tail and exited the area.

No turkey dinner was served on that day.

The hen and her poults marched away with their heads held high.

Neil Garrison was the longtime naturalist at a central Oklahoma nature center.

Neil Garrison

Neil Garrison is an outdoor nature enthusiast. He is a graduate of Oklahoma State University/Stillwater; he earned a B.S. degree in Wildlife Ecology. Prior to his 2009 retirement, he was the Naturalist at a central Oklahoma nature center for 30... Read more ›

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