Outdoor Roots – Spring 2012
Photos and Story by Dave Moreland
In the biology and zoology classes that I took many years ago in college, we learned many new words that we really did not use very often in our working careers. The term “sexual dimorphism” is one that has stuck with me mainly because I enjoy watching and photographing birds. Dimorphism is a phenotypic difference between the male and female, such as, size, ornamentation and behavior. Dichromatism is the occurance of two different types of coloring in a species, normally the sex of a species will make the difference in color. It is also called plumage dimorphism and is something that many birds exhibit. A topic of discussion in these biology classes, is why there are color differences. Attraction of mates and protection from predators are two of the common thoughts for this condition. In most cases, it is the male bird that has the brightest coloration.
Spring came early to the bayou state in 2012 and with it came one of the sweetest sounds in the woods, the gobble of the wild turkey. The wild turkey, both the gobbler and the hen, are also two of the more colorful birds to see in the spring, especially if you are a turkey hunter. Prior to the opening of the turkey season, I do some scouting and I always have my camera with me in hopes of capturing images of these birds.
It is hard to beat the iridescence of the wild turkey. This metallic glittering is more prominent in the males than the females, which appear to have a more dull-looking appearance. However, when both are moving about in full sunlight, the color variation is a spectacular show. The general appearance of the gobbler is black while that of the female is brown. The hen appears brown because of the brown tipped body and wing feathers, while those of the tom are black tipped. The male completes his glittering body color display with a mix of red, white and blue on the head and face. Throw in a gobble or two in between the courtship struts and the show is complete. This is the dream of every turkey hunter on opening day, a gobbler in full strut about 20 yards away.
On my scouting day prior to March 24, I had an adult tom within 10 yards of my blind. Unfortunately the sunshine that I had hoped for had been eliminated by a heavy fog, which did not disperse into the atmosphere. Nevertheless, the dark black body with the deep red caruncles was a beautiful sight to see.
While this tom did not show up on opening day, another tom filled in for him and provided my son, Ruffin, and myself with an even better show, complete with an attack on our jake decoy. This East Feliciana tom thought it was king of the day as it stood atop the decoy in a full strut. Once I had enough photos, I told Ruffin to go ahead, and he squeezed the trigger on his Mossberg. This was another memory making event for the Moreland Clan and some fresh southern wild turkey for the table.
A few days later, I encountered the tom that I had photographed on my scouting trip, but alas, the tom won the day and eluded the hunter. While I was preparing to make my exit from the field, a hen showed up to feed and for an hour-and-a-half, I was treated to an eastern wild turkey feeding and loafing show. I captured some great photos of a hen searching for insects and preening her feathers (just like all females do before meeting up with the guys). The coloration of the female is, in my opinion, just as beautiful as the tom’s. The array of browns, tan and reddish colors along with some glittering is a beautiful sight. The hen is the worker bee of the turkey clan and is responsible for giving us more gobblers to enjoy hunting; the old tom’s contribution to the family is finished after the courtship and mating.