misty gray morning --
wild turkey flying overhead,
barred wings and tail outspread
Driving down the gravel hill, I nearly hit a wild tom turkey when he flies up over the truck at a low angle. I just have time to take a mental snapshot of white barred wing feathers outspread, chestnut tufted tail fanned out, long tuft of feathers on his chest hanging down, legs bent, toes curled up, bumpy red head craning forward.
Wild turkeys will fly to escape danger and also to roost in trees, often over water for added protection. Amazing that anything that big (2.5-11 kg or 5-24 lbs and 76-125 cm or 30"-49") can fly at all, but they are actually fantastic fliers for short distances. They can take-off like helicopters, going almost straight up. And when they fly straight ahead, they go fast. A wild turkey was clocked at 55 miles per hour. It's an inspiration for those of us who yearn to fly, not in some contraption but under our own power. In addition to their flying skills, wild turkeys can dash up to 18 miles per hour for a short sprint, faster than an Olympic runner.
After the Great Seal was adopted by Congress in 1782, with the Bald Eagle in the center, Benjamin Franklin expressed his opinion in a letter to his daughter that "the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America." Native Americans refer to the Wild Turkey as the Southern Eagle and it played a large part in their culture. It was a favorite food (eggs and meat) of Eastern tribes, who also wore turkey feather headdresses and cloaks. Whenever I find a turkey feather lying beside the path in the woods, I imagine Benjamin Franklin, stationed in France, writing that letter to his daughter in Pennsylvania with a turkey quill pen.