A Bird’s View from Winds Way | Summer Birds

Photo Credit: Richard Wines

July 19, 2021

A monthly column written by Nancy Gilbert with photos by Richard Wines.

Do you find yourself wondering why you’re seeing fewer songbirds now that summer is most decidedly here? In addition to hearing less of the dawn chorus, you’ve probably also noticed that many birds don’t look like themselves. You may see birds whose plumage seems scruffy, or birds missing wing feathers. Blue Jays may appear bald and male Cardinals may look as if their heads had been dipped in a vat of dark blue or gray dye. What’s going on?

The birds are still there but have purposely become less visible. Now that the breeding season is over for many of our feathered friends, males no longer must sing to attract a mate. It is also no longer nearly as important to defend a territory, either vocally or with aggressive action. Some species such as the American Robin, will nest several times beginning in early spring. But even the American Robin will not start a new nest later than early August.

And what comes after the breeding season? The molting season, during which the feathers of birds are systematically replaced. Adults shed worn out feathers and replace them with strong, warm ones to see them through migration or cold weather. Babies begin the process of acquiring adult plumage. All of this takes energy and makes them more vulnerable to predation so lying low is a survival mechanism. The birds are still there, both adults and babies, but songbirds especially will be more difficult to spot.

I was perplexed about what to write about for this month’s blog until I spotted four brown blobs outside the kitchen window. What were they? It quickly became apparent – baby turkeys! Since spotting them early this week we’ve seen members of the flock at our bird feeder, in the gardens and in the woods, but have not seen the babies again. This is a bird we have all become increasingly familiar with, but I realized that other than the story that Benjamin Franklin believed the turkey was a worthier representative for our new nation than a Bald Eagle, I didn’t know a great deal about them. As it turns out, Franklin wrote his daughter defending the turkey as bold and courageous even if a little vain and silly and criticized the eagle for being too lazy to fish for itself, but never recommended that the turkey become one of our most important symbols.


Photo Credit: Richard Wines

Wild Turkeys have a fascinating history. Spanish explorers took home Wild Turkeys from Mexico, where they had been domesticated centuries earlier. Apparently, they were extremely popular and quickly spread across Europe and to England. The name “turkey” comes from the mistaken assumption that the birds arrived from somewhere in the east. Apparently, there were several live turkeys on board the Mayflower, and as they say, the rest is history. Their popularity at the table eventually considerably reduced their numbers, but the population has rebounded, and turkeys can be seen in 49 states.

Wild Turkey females have no further connection with a male once they have mated. The female builds a nest on the ground in dead leaves or at the base of a tree, lays one clutch a year of 4 to 17 eggs, and raises the young. Even though the female lays only one egg a day, she starts incubating only after she has finished laying. The eggs will all hatch at the same time, which is known as synchronous hatching. The babies will leave the nest between 12 and 24 hours from hatching and within two weeks will be able to fly short distances and roost in trees. Wild Turkeys are precocial, meaning they hatch out with fuzzy feathers, open eyes and can soon run. This is important, as the babies, known as poults, have to keep up with the mother hen as she forages through her territory for food and avoids predators. From looking at pictures on the internet, I think the babies in these pictures are between 7 and 8 weeks old. The mother hen will remain the center of their universe for another 4 or 5 months. Where are the males during all of this time? They’ve retreated to a male-only flock. The females will gather in flocks consisting of hens and poults. The average life expectancy for a hen is 3 years and that of a male is 4 years.


Photo Credit: Richard Wines

You may not be a fan of Wild Turkeys if they’ve marauded your garden looking for food (their diet consists of grasses, forbs, young green vegetation, fruit, nuts and insects; they need water daily) but they are fun to watch. Despite their size, they move silently and quickly through woods and field. And if you’re lucky, you may spot a mother hen and her poults!

In closing I must report sad news on behalf of our summer-resident Ospreys, Samson and Delilah. At least one egg hatched during the Memorial Day monsoon and another shortly thereafter. For 10 days or so we saw Samson diligently providing fish to the nest and Delilah bending down into the nest to feed the hatchlings. The babies even got large enough to be seen through the scope in our bedroom. We named them Fearless and Dauntless. And then all was quiet. We don’t know what happened. Samson and Delilah are still here, sometimes on the nest moving branches and clumps of grass around, sometimes in a nearby tree, and often soaring with members of the Osprey Soaring Club over the bay. They will probably remain here until their usual departure time in early September. Our hope is that other local nests will be more successful and that Samson and Delilah will return next March to begin the cycle again.

A Bird’s View from Winds Way is a monthly column by one of our board members and avid birder, Nancy Gilbert — with photos from her husband Richard Wines — on our local birds. Nancy’s columns appear on our blog, so please tune in each month for more from Winds Way.

About the Author

Nancy Gilbert is a board member and a conservation easement donor — as well as avid bird enthusiast and master gardener. In December 2001, Nancy and her husband Richard Wines, donated a conservation easement to the Trust on their property, Winds Way, in Jamesport. This easement protects 9.9 acres of agricultural land as well as 1.7 acres of scenic beachfront woodlands and wetlands on Great Peconic Bay. Also protected by the easement are the facades of the historic buildings located within the 3.2-acre development area, including a Greek-Revival residence, an historic barn, and a mid-19th century one-room schoolhouse. You can learn more about Winds Way and its history on their website:

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