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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Bartram Wakes to the Call of the Wild Turkey.

William Bartram explores the St. John's River, just south of St. Augustine, Florida, in April of 1774. Here he gives us an account of waking one morning to the call of the wild turkey:

Having rested very well during the night, I was awakened in the morning early, by the cheering converse of the wild turkey cocks (Meleagris occidentalis) [now generally designated Meleagris gallopavo] saluting each other, from the sun-brightened tops of the lofty Cupressus disticha and Magnolia grandiflora. They begin at early dawn, and continue till sun-rise, from March to the last of April. The high forests ring with the noise, like the crowing of the domestic cock, of these social sentinels; the watchword being caught and repeated, from one to another, for hundreds of miles around; insomuch that the whole country is for an hour or more in an universal shout. A little after sun-rise, their crowing gradually ceases, they quit their high lodging-places, and alight on the earth, where expanding their silver bordered train, they strut and dance round about the coy female, while the deep forests to tremble with their shrill noise.

Travels of William Bartram Through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida, The Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Musogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws; Containing an Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of Those Regions, Together with Observations on the Manners of the Indians. Philadelphia: James & Johnson, 1791. (Dover Reprint, 1955.) 89-90.

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