I don’t mean to be rude, but turkeys are really strange to look at and also quite amazing.

The bit of loose flesh that hangs from the forehead to their beak is called a snood, and the bit beneath their beak is called a wattle. You can tell how the bird is doing by looking at the colour of these fleshy flaps. If the male turkey is trying to attract a mate then the skin is bright red, if they are scared then they turn blue and when they are not well the flesh becomes pale.

Wild turkeys can fly quite fast, about 50 miles an hour, but only for a very short distance, about 100 yards. But the turkeys that have been specially bred to be eaten by people are much too big and heavy to fly at all. On land turkeys can run at speeds of up to 25 miles an hour. There are also reports that wild turkeys can swim by spreading out their big fan shaped tails and kicking their legs.

An interesting fact about poo. Male turkeys poo is shaped like a candy cane and female poo is like a spiral.

Turkeys didn’t originate in the country of Turkey at all. What seems to have happened is that hundreds of years ago English people started to eat what they thought of as a very yummy bird which was a guinea fowl from Madagascar. The people trading these birds were from Turkey so the English assumed that the birds were too. Then, years later, Spanish people went to America and discovered that wild turkeys tasted like those guinea fowl and so they got called turkeys as well. Not at all confusing.

They are really clever birds about some things, they can recognise each other by voices, they plan ahead, know their territory really well and recognise patterns.
From the first moments they hatch from their eggs the young ones are able to walk and run and find their own food and are covered in soft feathers. All the adults have to do is to defend their ‘poults’, (young). They take this work seriously and sometimes start defensive fights with their own reflections.

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goldenpheasant
The spectacular male Golden pheasant was originally from the mountain areas of China, but now lives in the wild in lots of places across the world including England.
It has a posh name like all animals and plants which is in both Greek and Latin. From Ancient Greek comes ‘khrusolophos’ meaning ‘with a golden crest’ and from Latin ‘pictus’ which means ‘to paint’.

Its tail is two thirds of its whole body length, but its body and head are the most showy bits. It does look a little bit like someone has been playing a game of consequences and has made up a fantasy bird in a game. It has a brilliant golden crest on its head and a golden bottom with a bright red body and an orange cape around its neck with black stripes on. To make things even more incredible when it is trying its hardest to look dapper and attract a nice female companion, it spreads out its cape so the feathers make an orange and black striped pattern that covers all of its head except for its beady eyes.

The pheasant molts every year, this means like lots of birds they have a change of feathers and loose the old ones to grow a new set. This leaves the fancy male particularly strange to look at. The farm staff have nicknamed him The Emperor because of the story about the Emperor who was tricked into buying what he was told was a glorious set of clothes for a big royal celebration, but he really had no clothes on at all. But all his subjects were so afraid to mention the fact that he was absolutely naked, that they kept on pretending to admire his suit. All except for one child who was very very honest and shouted out, ‘Look at the Emperor, he’s got no clothes on!’ And everyone suddenly felt able to tell the truth about what they were really seeing instead of what they were told that they were seeing. It’s a very good story.

The female bird is far more sensibly dressed. Like other female birds she has a sensible approach to feathers and has plumage in colours that camouflage her so that she can really look almost invisible as she sits on the nest to hatch her eggs and then care for her chicks.

Golden pheasants like to peck at insects and berries and stuff from the woodland floor and sleep, roost, in the trees at night. They don’t fly much but can run quite well, though they will make a noisy flight into the sky if they are startled by anything.


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Hatching is underway at Mudchute, with the first of Spring’s arrivals making their way into the world. We welcomed our first ducklings last week. The newly hatched ducklings include a mix of Aylesbury and Runner ducklings and will be joined by further ducklings and chicks over the coming weeks and months.

These precocious youngsters spend nearly a month developing in the egg and are capable of walking and feeding themselves shortly after breaking free of the egg. However, breaking the eggshell from within is hard work. Chicks and ducklings first begin with an “internal pip” internally breaking into the air sac a the wide end of the egg, taking their first breaths. They then break the egg shell (an “external pip”) before they begin to unzip the shell.

Watching the growth and development of the embryos is fascinating and we’ve shared some of the process previously here on the blog. We’re also happy to share the experience with local school groups who participate in our Hatch and Brood programme, where eggs are incubated right in the classroom. Good luck to all of our participating schools! To find out more about the programme including how your school can take part, please visit our Education pages.