Wild Turkeys – Recently Moved to Utah

Rio Grande Turkey Tom
Meleagris gallopavo
Courtesy US FWS
http://images.fws.gov

The pilgrims had turkeys for the first Thanksgiving*, but the likelihood that turkeys roamed Utah at that time is small. Archaeologists have found turkey bones in pueblos in the south-eastern corner of the state. But, it is not known if they were domesticated or wild birds. However, like the ring-necked pheasant, and chukar partridge, more than 20,000 wild turkeys now roam Utah thanks to hunters and wildlife professionals.

Turkeys are the largest upland game bird in Utah. Toms stand 4 feet high with tails fanned. Hens stand 3 feet tall. First year birds are called Jakes and Jennies.

Three of the five sub-species of wild turkey were introduced to Utah. Eastern turkeys lived on Antelope Island from 1925 through the 1950s. The Merriam’s, from the ponderosa pine habitat of Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado were introduced in 1952. And Rio Grandes, native to cottonwood river bottoms of Texas, were introduced in 1984.

Merriam’s turkeys are blacker than the eastern turkey, with reflections of blue, bronze and purple. Tail coverts, the feathers of the lower back that cover the tail feathers, are white on a Merriam’s turkey; and buff or tan on a Rio Grande.
For protection, turkeys roost in trees, but descend to feed under or near trees during the day. Except when nesting, they prefer protection in numbers and rarely wander alone.

In winter they roost in flocks, but disperse as far as 10 miles to nest. Hens lay 10-11 eggs near brushy cover and incubate them for 28 days. They eat pine nuts, acorns, seeds, insects and green vegetation.

The main predators are hawks, golden eagles, foxes, coyotes, dogs, cats, skunks, raccoons, ravens, and magpies. Fortunately, the numbers hatched usually overcome predation losses.

Thanks this holiday goes to the National Wild Turkey Foundation and Utah DWR for our Wild Turkeys.

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.


Wild Turkeys Near Mack Park in Smithfield, UT, 22 Feb 2009
Copyright © 2009 Lyle Bingham

 

Credits:

Photos:

Wild Turkeys near Mack Park, Smithfield, UT Copyright © 2009 Lyle Bingham

Text: Lyle Bingham, Bridgerland Audubon

Additional Reading:

Note: Turkeys were not featured at the first thanksgiving in 1621 as they are in present meals. References to the meal included venison and wild fowl, but the likelihood that turkey was featured is questioned. Although associated with the first thanksgiving by tradition, they are believed to have become commonly associated with the thanksgiving meal around 1800. The NWTF notes this in their History of the Wild Turkey in North America: http://www.nwtf.org/conservation/bulletins/bulletin_14.pdf

The Pilgrim Hall at Plymouth Plantation notes two sources of information about the thanksgiving celebration. The William Bradford writings mention “Turkies” http://www.pilgrimhall.org/great_american_turkey.htm

Why a Turkey Is Called a Turkey, Robert Krulwich, Nov, 27, 2008, NPR, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97541602

National Wild Turkey Foundation, http://www.nwtf.org/

Utah Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Foundation, http://utahnwtf.org/

Wild Turkey Preditors, Posted by Admin, September 20, 2008, http://waterandwoods.net/2008/09/wild-turkey-predators/

http://wildlife.utah.gov/projectwild/newsletters/00fall-nc.pdf

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/wild-turkey.html

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Wild_Turkey.html

Eaton, Stephen W. 1992. Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/022/articles/introduction

Merriams:

http://dwrcdc.nr.utah.gov/rsgis2/search/Display.asp?FlNm=melegame

Rio Grande:

http://dwrcdc.nr.utah.gov/rsgis2/Search/Display.asp?FlNm=melegain

Turkey CSI: USU Lab’s DNA Analysis Nabs Poacher, Mary-Ann Muffoletto, Utah State Today, November, 2008, http://www.usu.edu/ust/index.cfm?article=21644

The New Dove in the Neighborhood

Eurasian Collared Dove
Note the black collar
and the broad square tail
Courtesy Stephen Peterson

During the winter after most doves have migrated, you may notice a dove foraging along the roadside or perched in a tree. A new species has arrived in our neighborhood, the Eurasian collared dove or Streptopelia decaocto, which has a distinctive black neck ring and a broad tail.

Originally found near the Bay of Bengal in Asia, this dove began its range expansion in the 1600’s. By 1900, it had made its way to Turkey, and by 2000 could be found as far north as the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia. Expansion into North America occurred in the early seventies when the collared dove appeared in the Bahamas. Since 1982, when first discovered in Florida, it has been gradually making its way north and west. Nineteen ninety-seven marked the first official report of Eurasian collared doves in Orem, Utah. Now they have spread throughout the state.

Eurasian collared doves join rock pigeons, the English sparrow, and the European starling as non-native birds that have expanded across the country. Experts attribute the success of Eurasian collared doves to the wide availability of seed offered by backyard bird feeders, as well as their ability to aggressively defend feeding areas. Some fear that they will cause territory or breeding problems for our native mourning dove, but so far there is no evidence to support this concern.

In an effort to reduce the number of Eurasian collared doves, the Utah DWR allows year-round harvesting. But be careful: don’t confuse this dove with the smaller mourning dove, which has a narrow, pointed tail and no ring on its neck. Eurasian collared doves have a distinct neck band and a broad, squared tail. Their calls also differ.

Native Mourning Dove
Courtesy USFWS

The mourning dove has the familiar melodic call:
[coo-ah cooo cooo coo]

[Kevin Colver, Songbirds of the Rocky Mountains
12 Mourning Dove]


Now listen to the Eurasian collared dove:

[“coo-coooo-coo”, “coo-coooo-coo”, “coo-coooo-coo”, “krreair”]

[Eurasian collared dove – From Kevin Colver’s private library

Two calls combined for this piece.]

The verdict is still out on the impact that the Eurasian collared dove will have on native species. In the mean time, let’s watch to see how this new dove adapts to the neighborhood and fits into the ecosystem.

Eurasian Collared Dove
Courtesy Stephen Peterson

Thank-you to Lyle Bingham of Bridgerland Audubon for writing this essay and to Kevin Colver for providing the recorded songs.

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.

Credits:

Photos: Courtesy US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS)

Recordings: Kevin Colver, 7loons.com

Text: Lyle Bingham, Bridgerland Audubon

Additional Reading:

Florida’s Introduced Birds: Eurasian collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto), Stephen A. Johnson and Gay Donaldson-Fortier, University of Florida IFAS Extension, WEC 256,http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/UW/UW30100.pdf

Tricky Bird IDs: Eurasian Collared-Dove and African Collared-Dove, Project FeederWatch, A Joint Project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada, http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/AboutBirdsandFeeding/EucdovRitdovID.htm

Romagosa, Christina Margarita. 2002. Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/630/articles/introduction

2009-2010 Upland Game Guidebook, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, http://wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks/2009-10_upland_game/2009-10_upland_game.pdf

Complete Birds of North America, ed. Jonathan Alderfer, National Geographic, 2006

Bugging Marbled Godwits

Marbled Godwit on the shore
Photo by Lee Karney
Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

In the name of curiosity and hunger, man has tracked the migrations of animals for centuries. The first record of the use of leg bands to track birds is from 1595 when one of Henry IV’s Peregrine Falcons was lost in France. It showed up 24 hours later in Malta, about 1400 miles away. John James Audubon tied silver cords to a brood of phoebes and identified two nestlings that returned the next year. In 1899, Hans Mortensen added identification numbers and his return address to the plain leg bands and modern bird banding was born.

In the United States, anyone who finds a bird band is encouraged to report it to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. Banding provides us with limited information, however. There is no data about the bird’s life between the time of banding and its recapture or death.

But recent miniaturization of satellite transmitters used to track larger animals is now proving valuable in bird research. In 2006, Bridget Olsen of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and Adrian Farmer of the US Geological Survey started placing tiny satellite transmitters on the backs of Marbled Godwits, a hefty sandpiper that rests at the refuge during its migration. The Marbled Godwit is in decline throughout its range. This large shorebird was chosen by scientists from Mexico, the United States and Canada as the focus for an international shorebird conservation effort.
The solar-powered transmitters periodically record the bird’s GPS location. The transmission is picked up via satellite and returned to the researchers. Comparing two transmissions indicates travel time and speed.

Olsen and Farmer work with wildlife officers across North America to track the Marbled Godwits from their wintering grounds in Baja California, through their migration to nesting grounds in the Great Plains, Alaska and Canada.

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.

Credits:

Photo: Courtesy US Fish & Wildlife Service, National Digital Library

http://www.fws.gov/digitalmedia/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/natdiglib&CISOPTR=4348&CISOBOX=1&REC=1

Text: Lyle Bingham, Linda Kervin, Jim Cane, Bridgerland Audubon

Additional Reading:

Go Godwits Resources: http://www.fort.usgs.gov/Resources/GoGodwits/

Frequently Asked Questions: Tracking Marbled Godwits by Satellite: http://www.fort.usgs.gov/Resources/GoGodwits/faq.asp#Q1
Conservation Plan for the Marbled Godwit: http://www.fort.usgs.gov/Products/Publications/pub_abstract.asp?PubID=21601

Marbled Godwit, Limosa fedoa, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Migratory Bird Research, https://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/id/framlst/i2490id.html

Effects of Management Practices on Grassland Birds: Marbled Godwit, USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/literatr/grasbird/mago/mago.htm

Marbled Godwit, Utah Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Conservation Data Center,
http://dwrcdc.nr.utah.gov/rsgis2/Search/Display.asp?FlNm=limofedo

Satellites Used to Track Bird Movement and Preserve Species, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, USGS Newsroom, June 12, 2006, http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=1521

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Brigham City, UT – Research Page,
http://www.fws.gov/bearriver/research.html

Avian Cyrano de Bergerac- long-billed Curlew

Long-billed Curlew
Lee Karney, US Fish & Wildlife Service
Long-billed Curlew in Flight
Cresent Lake NWR, US Fish & Wildlife Service

The Cyrano de Bergerac of the bird world is the long-billed curlew. Its bill is 9 inches long and curves downward at the tip. This 19-inch bird is the largest shorebird of North America. The long-billed curlew is cinnamon brown above and buff brown below. It is similar in size to a marbled godwit, but the bill of the godwit is shorter and turns up.

Like Cyrano, the long-billed curlew is shy. They arrive in Utah in mid-March, seeking open fields and grasslands away from trees, posts, power poles or any other perches of use to predators. They can been seen walking through fields, probing with their bill for worms, insects, spiders and even berries.

In breeding season the male repeatedly flies high, then glides downward, calling all the while.
[Kevin Colver, Songs of Yellowstone #9 Long-billed Curlew]

Like other shorebirds, their nest is just a shallow scrape on the ground, lightly lined with grass. Typically 4 eggs are laid. Both sexes incubate the eggs for about 2 weeks. The down covered young hatch with their eyes open and feed themselves. Two to three weeks after the chicks hatch, the female departs. Dad stays with his chicks until after they fledge when they are about 35 days old. Soon thereafter curlews flock up to migrate south. In mid July, they fly to California or Mexico, where they frequent coastal mudflats eating crabs and other aquatic life.

The long-billed curlew was once much more common. Market hunting in the 19th century and habitat loss more recently have reduced their numbers, but they persist in parts of Utah.

Thanks to Kevin Colver for the use of his recording.

To view pictures visit the Wildaboututah link on upr.org

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.

Credits:

Photos: Courtesy Fish and Wildlife Service Online Digital Media Library

http://www.fws.gov/digitalmedia/

Audio: Dr. Kevin Colver, www.wildsanctuary.com & www.7loons.com

Text: Lyle Bingham, Bridgerland Audubon Society
Additional Reading:

Washington State Birdweb:
http://birdweb.org/birdweb/bird_details.aspx?id=157

Long-billed curlew Numenius americanus, USGS Migratory Bird Research – Patuxent Wildlife Research Center,
https://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/id/framlst/i2640id.html

Long-billed Curlew Satellite Tracking
https://ibo.boisestate.edu/curlewtracking/locations/

Prairie Birds: Fragile Splendor in the Great Plains, Paul A. Johnsgard, 2001, University Press of Kansas, http://www.amazon.com/Prairie-Birds-Fragile-Splendor-Plains/dp/0700610677

Long-billed Curlew Mating flight (Video),
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vv-cNA6IBG8