John James Audubon’s Birthday

Today is the 231st birthday of John James Audubon, born in 1785. To celebrate it we thought we would do a post about one of his favorite birds – the Wild Turkey. It was Plate 1 in his epic work “Birds of America.” The Audubon Society has the text about each bird and copies of the paintings on this web site. The Wild Turkey page is found here.

In the information accompanying the Ruffed Grouse page from Birds of America, Audubon said  ”You are now presented, kind reader, with a species of Grouse, which, in my humble opinion, far surpasses as an article of food every other land-bird which we have in the United States, except the Wild Turkey, when in good condition.” He loved hunting and eating birds. Danny Heitman in a 2010 article in the Wall Street Journal recounted Roger Tory Peterson’s comment that Audubon ate many of the birds he painted, even owls and juncos.

The photograph (above) was made just as the sun was going down, turning the gobblers into burnished copper statues with a green and blue patina. This is the “Magic” or “Golden Hour” (just before sunset and just after sunrise) so admired by many photographers.  These two were among a group of gobblers displaying along a creek near a road. Our vehicle was our blind/hide. When they walked out  into the evening light, they seemed to reflect it back to the world. It was as if nature, in all its glory, just walked out of the woods.

Wild Turkeys were diminished in the last century but have revived through careful management and now are in all states but Alaska. They often live in and near woodlands where oaks, beech and hickory provide mast (nuts) that make up a substantial part of their diet. Wild Turkeys also eat leaf buds, a variety of seeds, ferns, other plants and some small animals.

So many of us will, continue to quote Audubon when he said: “During all these years there existed within me a tendency to follow Nature in her walks.” Happy Birthday, Mr. Audubon.

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