Talking Turkey

The SW corner of the Hollow has some large sandstone boulders, and a very burled stump that Dad has carved into a monolith to provide some turning blanks for a friend who does artisan woodworking. One boulder has some particularly interesting honeycombed erosion patterns. Lying directly next to another boulder, a sort of small ‘cave’ is formed between the two. A couple years ago, the large tree growing on top of the boulders blew over, creating a 15′ long 2′ diameter oak bridge to another boulder uphill (if I only had a Wood-Mizer).

July09-737.jpgExploring that area of the Hollow last week, I thought I heard a funny noise coming from inside the boulder–“clack, clack, clack, clack.” I climbed up on top of the boulder, and realized it was coming from the cave. Climbing back off the boulder, I peered into the cave from the back. Suddenly, this incredibly loud hissing noise came from inside the dark cave. Woah! I couldn’t see a thing. I was pretty sure that bears didn’t hiss, or clack, but I still decided that this wasn’t the right time to figure out what was making the noise.

So a couple days later, I return. Sneaking up on the front of the cave, what should I see, but two big, furry turkey vulture chicks peering around the mouth of the cave. Maybe circumstances exaggerated my perception, but they seemed to be at least 18″ tall. I wasn’t sure if they were turkey chicks or turkey buzzard chicks, but whatever they were, they were the biggest baby birds I’ve ever seen.

July09-741.jpgI took a couple of shots using the on-camera flash, and then went around the back of the cave to see if I could get a different view. It seemed that mom and dad were not home. There was no clicking, nor any intimidating hissing.

Given that the chicks were almost 2 foot tall, I wasn’t sure what an angry adult of that species would do when cornered. There are many stories of geese actually breaking peoples’ arms (and Elizabeth tracked down several stories of fatalities), and I just didn’t know how aggressive a large carrion eater would be. Certainly they must have some significant wing muscles to soar so elegantly and for so long. As it turns out, I was probably right to avoid a confrontation

According to Turkey Vultures: Facts, Maps, and Statistics, the primary form of turkey vulture defense is to vomit on their assailant. The site further warns that this can sting and stink. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m pleased I didn’t have the opportunity to learn this fact through actual experience.

These two are ugly enough that only a parent could love them.

2 Responses to “Talking Turkey”

  1. Nancy Boitel-Uhl Says:

    Oh now that is good. Yes they are not the cutest thing in the world but your explanation and words of wisdom about these little creatures is amazing. Thank-you Jay and Elizabeth

  2. Eliz Says:

    Glad you weren’t urped on by a vulture. BTW Those were swan fatalities, not geese.