Feather Dusting

Birds of a Feather, Flock Together

Scenes from the field, in Charles County, MD.


Horsemint Beebalm (Monarda punctata).


This complex and beautiful Monarda is native, occurring from Pennsylvania, south to Florida and west to Texas.  The leaves of the plant have a citrus, lemony scent.


As I came around a section of dirt road, I encountered a flock of 16 wild turkey (Meleagris gallapavo). 


The wild turkey lives mostly in the woods.  They need large trees, which provide a dependable food source and provide safe roosting sites, up and off of the ground.  They especially like oak and beech trees.  Open, grassy areas provide insects for poults (young turkey), along with areas for winter feeding, loafing, nesting and strutting.


Turkey have two major feeding times, once during mid-morning, the other, in mid-afternoon.  Family groups often meet and feed in large flocks, clipping-off or ripping vegetation with their beaks.  They also scratch with their feet to uncover food hidden by leaves.


After feeding in the morning, turkey often rest, or begin “dusting.”  While dusting, a turkey wallows in loose soil, fluffing up its feathers to allow the soil to penetrate to the skin.  Their favorite dusting places are sandy spots and decayed logs.  During the evening, turkey fly up to roost in the trees of forested areas.  It’s always a treat to see these large birds sitting up in trees.


I have three dogs, a Pyrenees, a Bernese, and a Beagle.  After my beagle Mickey eats dinner, he then goes outside to the lawn, and rolls on his back.  I take it that, he has met his hierarchy of needs and is a happy camper.  I assume that the dry bath dusting of a turkey may be a similar maintenance activity.  This photo shows the feather dusting imprint in the soil.


Many animals prey on the eggs and young poults of turkey.  Skunks, opossum, raccoon, snake, crow, coyote, fox and some rodents will all look for turkey eggs or a poult meal.  Coyote, fox, great horned owls and red-tailed hawks may sometimes kill and feed on adult turkey.


Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), an attractive non-native invasive of wetlands and ditches.


Salt Marsh Fleabane (Pluchea odorata) is native to the northeast Atlantic coast, and occurs in fresh and brackish tidal wetlands.

Great day in the field!