Dear Bird Folks,
Perhaps you have heard of Kendall Square, Cambridge’s resident male Wild Turkey known as Mr. Gobbles. He is extremely well fed, but lacks any female companionship. At the appropriate time of year, he displays the mating plumage, but I’ve never seen any activity on that score (no pun intended). Isn’t the mating imperative a stronger motivator than a constant feeding source?
-Margaret, Melrose, MA
Nope,not me Margaret,
I hate to say it, but living here in the wilds of the Outer Cape, I don’t have direct knowledge of the avifauna that wanders the streets of Cambridge. In other words, I have no idea who the heck Mr. Gobbles is. But I must say, judging from his uppity name, he sounds more like a bird that should live across the river in Beacon Hill. Are you sure that this turkey isn’t called Professor Gobbles? That has more of a Cambridge ring to it. Unless the bird is merely a student, then I’ll bet he is known around campus as the Gobster. I suggest you check with some of Mr. Gobble’s friends and see if I’m right.
If the male turkey’s breeding habits are anything like his male human counterpart, and I have no reason to believe that they are, I’d say that Mr. Gobbles’ age could be a factor here. When choosing between breeding and eating, human males in their early years will choose eating every time. Boys find food far more satisfying and a lot less complicated. The same thing could be said for middle-aged men. Give them a good meal, Margaret, and they’ll leave you alone, whether you like it or not. However, the group of males that fall in between these two age groups would rather starve than pass up an opportunity at intimacy, or as you so warmly referred to it, “the mating imperative.” What we need to do here is to find out how old the Gobster is. Don’t stress this one, because I’ve already done the research for you. The birth records that I found in the Cambridge town hall are a bit sketchy, but it seems that your Mr. Gobbles (if that is his real name) is at least four years old. With an average life expectancy of two years, being four is old for a turkey. In human years, Mr. Gobbles is pushing 156.
This brings a third element into our equation. First there is food, then mating and the third item that many older men embrace is their daily nap. It is most likely, that after lunch, old man Gobbles would rather look for a warm spot in which to nod-off than spend the day trying to track down a female. The mating imperative has passed him by.
The other thing to consider is Mr. Gobble’s heritage. This bird may be a Wild Turkey in name only. It is quite possible that instead of coming from deep in the woods of Massachusetts, Mr. G is a bird that has escaped from a nearby backyard. Your Wild Turkey may be nothing more than an urban turkey that has refused to return to its pen after getting a taste of the bright lights of Kendall Square. He is content to spend his days wandering the streets of Cambridge, living off handouts and writing poetry that no one can understand.
A male Wild Turkey, regardless of its age and upbringing, tries to attract a female by strutting around with his handsome tail feathers all fanned out and by gobbling. A tom turkey’s gobble can be heard for more than a mile. When a hen hears the gobble, she answers him back and the fun is on. The trouble with poor Mr. Gobbles is that, with the exception of Radcliffe, there are no available females to answer him. Kendall Square isn’t exactly a hotbed of available female turkeys. So unless your turkey has access to some kind of internet dating service, he could remain a bachelor for a very long time.
Now before you start feeling bad for the Gobster, keep in mind that he has had a pretty good life living there in Cambridge. He has direct access to the T, there are tons of great coffee shops and if he ever wants to monitor a class at MIT no one in that school would ever notice him. He would blend right in.
Finally, let’s not forget, Margaret, that good old Mr. Gobbles has lived twice as long as the average turkey. He seems to be proving that perhaps there are more important things in life than mating. I never thought those words would come out of my mouth but it just may be true. I’d like to write more on this subject, but it will have to wait. I’ve just finished lunch and now it’s time for my nap.