Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/61

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THE WILD TURKEY.

Meleagris Gallopavo, Linn.

PLATE VI. Female and Young.


The Male Turkey has already been described, and you have seen that magnificent bird roaming in the forests, approaching the haunts of man, and performing all the offices for which he is destined in the economy of nature. Here you have his mate, now converted into a kind and anxious parent, leading her young progeny, with measured step and watchful eye, through the intricacies of the forest. The chickens, still covered with down, are running among her feet in pursuit of insects. One is picking its sprouting plumelets, while another is ridding itself of a tick which has fastened upon its little wing.

In addition to what has already been said respecting the manners of the Wild Turkey, I have a few circumstances to mention, which relate chiefly to both sexes. Its flight is powerful and rapid, and is composed of strong flappings, which enable it to rise with ease to the highest branches of the largest forest trees. When it starts from the ground, it generally leaves marks which are made by the first motions of its wings, which are so powerful as raise the withered leaves around it. When the ground is covered with snow, the impressions are so distinctly defined as to imitate the form of the pinions. When it leaves its perch, it flaps its wings only a few times at the outset, and then sails for many hundred yards, balancing itself as it proceeds, with great steadiness, until it reaches the ground. If it has flown from its perch with the view of reaching another, it repeats the flappings at intervals of a hundred yards or so. On coming to the ground, it is obliged to run for a few yards, its great weight rendering this necessary to prevent its body from being injured.

The great strength of a full grown Turkey-cock renders it no easy matter to hold it when but slightly wounded; and once or twice I have thought myself in jeopardy, when on entering a pen in which six or seven large cocks had imprisoned themselves, their flutterings and struggles rendered it extremely difficult to secure them.

The Female Turkey, which is considerably inferior in size to the