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Tales from the old-timer

Bullying Among Wild Critters

Sitting in the easy chair by the west-facing window in our living room, I like to observe the many small birds darting in and out of our black sunflower-seed bird feeder, as many as 10 birds per minute, and also the squirrels feasting on the 6 or 8 ears of cob corn I keep impaled on nails attached to racks on our oak trees. And every morning a bunch of about 20 full-grown wild turkeys visit out there, picking up kernels of the corn that fall to the ground. One lordly male turkey angrily disciplines another of his companions. The chaser-bully never seems to actually catch his prey, neither the turkey nor the squirrel bully - just let them know who is boss!

It should be a warm, country-style view of peaceful creatures eating their fill, but no, there is a lot of bullying among the turkeys and among the squirrels. A grey squirrel chases one of the black squirrels up and down the oak tree in endless circling pursuit for a long time, and sometimes a black squirrel goes after one of the grey plume-tailed rodents.

Among the big, dark-purple plumed turkeys, similar brow-beating goes on, as one stern-looking tom apparently takes a strong dislike to another big bird pecking stuff off the ground. The turkey bully keeps it up for a long time. It is more than a harmless domination and submission maneuvering; it seems grim and serious. I suppose a lot of scientific books have been written about this, and it may be a pretty common behavior among animals and birds, and maybe we humans, too, and it decides who gets to mate and have “kids”. If you want something different from the boring daytime TV fare, go to the Peshtigo Feed Mill and get in on the fun time the critters will have in your yard. Your own little private zoo!


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