Outback Steakhouse may advertise blooming onions, but I have blooming turkeys in a green field north of my house. Like a rose going from a tight bud to full summer bloom, those big ol’ gobblers put on a show. Puffing their feathers and spreading their fan-shape tails into a full blown sail, they strut and rattle. All this action occurs to woo nearby hens that coyly scan the area for insects and greens.
Spring turkey watching is always a treat for nature lovers, but this year it is spectacular. Timely rains and Jekyll and Hyde temperatures combined to create a dense, green back drop for this year’s turkey extravaganza. Wheat and alfalfa that just a few months ago appeared anemic and scraggly soaked up an all-day, gentle rain, turning it into a lush, velvety backdrop for those show-off toms. Brilliant emerald fields highlight iridescent feathers of toms and hens to dazzle turkey watchers willing to find turkeys to watch.
Four mature long beards star in the pageant below our house. A number of jakes or young male turkeys wander outside the inner circle of strutting toms, snagging a bite here and there while keeping an eye on the show. My guess is that they are studying the dance steps so they know what to do next spring.
The hens, in my opinion, are most entertaining of all. While the males fluff, preen, and strut, the ladies appear focused on dining. Often their heads are to the ground as they seek some tasty snack. How can they stand so close to all those fluffed feathers, red wattles and blue faces, hearing that rattling sound toms make as they strut in choreographed steps, and not notice?
As intent as they appear on anything but the toms, you would think they were totally unaware of their suitors’ energetic presentations. If I didn’t see gangly turkey poults awkwardly following their mothers through fields and down roads in early June, I would guess the guys’ efforts were in vain.
While turkeys will always look like lumbering, big-bellied cargo planes as they fly to their evening roost, their spring dance has an unarguable elegance. On the ground in full strut, the male turkey puts on a show worthy of Las Vegas headlines. When that show happens with rain-fueled Mother Nature’s greenery as a backdrop, it is even more dazzling.
It’s worth a morning drive along western Kansas roads and highways bordered by wheat fields and alfalfa patches to see this spring gala. Take any highway or country path and keep your eyes open and your camera ready. Blooming turkeys will delight you.