This is Quinn. He is wild-born, but something happened that left him orphaned and near-death. A wildlife rehabber noticed the sickly bird and intervened, took him to a vet and nursed him back to health.
A tame turkey in the California wilderness is not a safe turkey, especially not near a "holiday" that celebrates gratitude through the suffering and slaughter of another life.
So Quinn is now at the sanctuary.
I like Quinn a lot. He is tall and lanky, a bird made for flight and speed. He talks, urgently, inquisitively and intensely. If I had my way, I would sit and talk with Quinn all day. He does not speak like the other turkeys - not because he is wild, but because he has missed out on the passing down of songs from parents to offspring, of the sharing of trills between friends and siblings. His calls are louder, more urgent and lack the the subtleties of the other turkeys.
When I do my (poor) imitation of a mother turkey's trill, he cocks his head to the side, stretches his neck out, takes a deep breath and then screams at me. I'm not sure if he's saying "You're not my mother!" or "Your turkey talk sucks!" but he's curious and pauses always after his yell for my response. I don't know any other turkey talk except that one trill, so we bandy back and forth like this for a few minutes before he decides to see what the real turkeys are talking about.
And if there is one thing turkeys are most adept at it is talking. Their vocalizations are varied and many, their clucks, trills, whistles and gobbles all convey some sort of turkey thought, emotion or opinion (they are VERY opinionated). Sometimes it's obvious - the loud toot toot of an angry turkey hen, the full-throated warble of a courting turkey tom, the indignant yelp of a turkey hen who does not want to be petted, the soft trill of a content hen as she preens...sometimes the turkeys talk for the sake of gabbing or discuss stuff only turkeys really care about (or that humans are too inept to understand). I've seen turkey hens stand up tall, fluff their feathers and begin to wax eloquent on some very important subject. It does not matter that no one is listening for she has something to say and, darnit, she's going to say it loud and clear.
Quinn has missed out on some very important lessons. But he's interested in learning. He stares intently at the turkey hens and watch as they talk. He studies the two old tom turkeys, Leland and Tom, as they puff out proudly, gobble and croon to the girls. He even takes time to check out the chickens and see if they have anything interesting to say (according to him, they don't). And he watches the people as they come and go, clean, talk in a foreign tongue, and he's curious.
While Quinn will never know what it means to be a free turkey in a flock of his peers, he will have an opportunity to live his life in his own turkey way.
Remember the turkeys this Thanksgiving. The wild ones who are brutally shot and stolen from their friends and families. The domestic turkeys shoved callously by the thousands into transport trucks, exposed to freezing temperatures and shipped to a slaughterhouse. The millions upon millions of birds who never know the warmth of their mother's wing, the joy of preening in the sunlight or the simple pleasure of choosing whether to eat the grape or the cantaloupe. They need us now more than ever - this Thanksgiving, show your gratitude by eating a turkey-free dinner. Extend that gratitude throughout the year by switching to a vegetarian diet.
Quinn screeches and toots his thanks. Or what I'll currently label as his "thanks".
-Marji Beach, Education Coordinator