The following is an excerpt from a letter Benjamin Franklin sent to his daughter. He supported making the wild turkey the national bird.
“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.
“With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country...
“I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America ... He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”
Perhaps they are looking for the good life.
Perhaps they are fleeing a Thanksgiving roasting pan.
Whatever the reason, a flock of wild turkeys, called a rafter, roamed and gobbled around central Great Bend Thursday. They occupied backyards, caused motorists to stop and brought homeowners out to snap photos.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Nancy Rogers, who lives at 19th and Harrison. She only saw one member of the pack but “it was huge.”
She feared one of the birds might venture into the street and get hit by a car. But, if that happened, she could take advantage of the turkey’s misfortune in time for a holiday meal.
How did they wind up into the city limits? “They were probably on the edge of town and worked their way in,” said Carl Grover, field supervisor for the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area. “They probably found life easy here.”
Turkeys don’t migrate, but they do cover a large territory in a hurry, Grover said. They will probably move on to somewhere else.
The birds eat anything from nuts to insects and don’t pose a threat to their new neighbors. They can show some aggression during their spring nesting season.
“They are neat to have around,” Grover said.
Native to Kansas, wild turkeys were almost wiped out in the state by the early 1920s, said Pratt-based Mike Mitchener, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism wildlife section chief. This was due to over hunting and loss of habitat
But, they were reintroduced in the 1960s, and the program has been a great success, Mitchener said. Today, the populations are stable in eastern part of the state and increasing in the west, although wildlife officials have no actual head count.
Aiding in the recovery are restored and increased habitat, and improved conservation efforts.
Fall turkey hunting season runs Oct. 1-Nov. 29, Dec. 12-31 and Jan. 9-31, closing between those dates for deer season. There is also a spring season.