River talk

Birds of a feather

By SCOTT RANDO
Posted 12/4/19

By now, most readers have finished their Thanksgiving leftovers from the holiday dinner they likely shared with family and friends last week. A whole turkey provides enough leftovers for several …

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River talk

Birds of a feather

Posted

By now, most readers have finished their Thanksgiving leftovers from the holiday dinner they likely shared with family and friends last week. A whole turkey provides enough leftovers for several meals; there is no doubt about it, some of the turkeys you can buy at the store are huge.

Meantime, out in the field or forest, we find that wild turkeys are very large birds indeed—capable of providing more than a holiday meal. Males can frequently weigh more than 30 pounds.

Wild turkeys usually travel in flocks, which makes them noticeable. The other striking thing about wild turkeys is their plumage. The male has more striking plumage along with the classic fan tail it displays during mating season in the spring. The female, however, also has some colorful plumage, albeit less than the male. In the sunlight, both sexes display some of the iridescence present on some feathers. 

While feathers of some endangered or threatened species are illegal to possess, wild turkey feathers can be found for sale on eBay, as well as other online retailers. The iridescent contour feathers may be used for decorative items while the primary flight feathers (outermost few wing-tip feathers) can be used for fletching on arrows. Turkey feathers can be used for fly tying; the strong barbs of a turkey tail feather make good “wings” for many patterns. In colonial times, a large wing feather served as a quill pen, along with various other species.

When walking in the woods, you may spy one or another type of turkey feather, each type with its unique color and pattern. Shades of brown with some type of banding provide a clue for folks not familiar with feathers. If it doesn’t find its way to the fly-tying bench, or our favorite “feather display” spot, it would remind of seasons gone past and one of nature’s more fascinating bird species. 



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