Aug 11 2015
In mid July, Mary Ann Pike had an unusual experience with wild turkeys in her back yard in Washington County, PA. She wrote:
We have had a flock of turkeys wandering around our property for a week or two. I’ve usually seen 3 hens and 6 chicks, although my daughter says she’s seen twice that many. Last night my husband went out on the porch to start the grill for dinner and his sudden appearance scattered the flock into the woods. Suddenly, the air was filled with this sound:
The South Carolina DNR web site refers to it as Kee Kee, the call of lost young turkeys. It was incredibly loud, and it sounded like there were 20 of them in the woods less than 100 feet behind our house, but it was probably only 6 or 8 of them. We have never heard anything like it.
Click on Mary Ann’s link and you’ll hear the sound of lost turkeys. Did you know their calls change as the birds get older?
Baby turkeys are precocial when they hatch so as a safety mechanism they imprint on the first thing they see — their mother — and listen for her instructions. As the family forages together they use sound to keep in touch and announce danger.
At first the babies make peeping sounds but by seven weeks of age the peep becomes a whistle which they use to make contact after being scattered by a predator. Later the whistle drops in pitch (the kee-kee-kee call) and later still they add a yelp (kee-kee-run call). Adult turkeys drop the kee and merely yelp to assemble the flock.
If you hear the kee-kee calls in summer, chances are it’s some lost young turkeys calling their mother. But be careful if you hear it in Pennsylvania in May or November. Those months are turkey season when hunters use turkey calls to attract their prey.
p.s. Check the PA Game Commission website for exact turkey season dates by region.
(photo from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)