Here’s the latest column that ran in The Hour (Norwalk, CT) and The Keene Sentinel (Keene, N.H.) I know it’s a little after Thanksgiving, but you get the spirit of the column, I’m sure.
I heard the term turducken for the first time on one recent morning. Since then, I’ve heard it over and over. It must be the new thing. Or am I just way behind the times?
A turducken, for those who haven’t heard the term yet, is a food item that includes turkey, duck and chicken. The birds are all stuffed into each other — I’m not sure of the order — and, as far as I’m concerned, sounds really awful.
I’m all for combining foods, but a turkey, duck and chicken? No thanks.
What turducken does conjure up for me is a great day in the field birdwatching — with all the birds being alive, of course. I love seeing turkeys, ducks and if not chickens, at least birds that are somewhat like chickens, such as grouse, pheasants, and bobwhite.
Since it’s Thanksgiving season, let’s start with turkeys. It wasn’t so long ago — late 1800s — that turkeys were nearly wiped out completely from New England. Overhunting and changing landscape (woods to farm) paid a deadly toll on the wild turkey.
By the mid 1900s, woods had recaptured much of the landscape it had lost and turkey reintroduction programs were initiated to return the wonderful bird to our region. Well, if you hadn’t noticed, the reintroduction programs worked. Boy, did they ever.
The wild turkey is now found in abundance throughout each New England state, and throughout the U.S., for that matter. The Connecticut restoration program worked so well that this state actually contributed hundreds of turkeys to a reintroduction program in another state in the 1990s.
I don’t know many birdwatchers who don’t appreciate a good wild turkey sighting. I know the kids love them and get excited when they them. Kids love all big birds. When it comes to kids, forget the warblers and bring on the turkeys and vultures.
A few wild turkey facts:
• They may look heavy and awkward, but wild turkeys can run up to 25 miles per hour. They are also good fliers.
• Benjamin Franklin wanted the wild turkey to be our national bird. (I know, everyone has heard this one before, but I couldn’t just leave it out.)
• Like a chameleon, a turkey’s bald head can change color to reflect the bird’s emotion. The head can be blue, white, red, pink or a combination of those colors.
I talked about ducks at length last week — and will again in the weeks to come, I’m sure — so I’ll keep the duck talk brief. That said I’m looking forward to my annual Thanksgiving “duck hunt” with my boys on Thursday morning. We travel from water hole to water hole and try to find 10 species of ducks in two hours. The boys are always on the lookout for a good playground, though. Of course I’ll let you know how we did.
The nice thing about living on a coastal town is that we get fresh- and saltwater ducks. Many ducks will readily visit either fresh or saltwater, but other ducks clearly prefer one over the other. Long live Long Island Sound and the inland lakes and ponds.
The chickens? I’ll be brief again since we don’t have any true wild chickens in New England. I will mention that the bobwhite is somewhat chicken like and that species is in trouble. I’ve spent countless hours in the woods and fields looking for birds and I’ve come across bobwhite once. And that was in Delaware. It’s too bad, too, because bobwhite was once a plentiful species. I hope we don’t lose them completely.
So as we eat our turkey — or turducken if that’s your thing — this holiday season, let’s be thankful for the wild birds out there and take steps to protect them.
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