Bird Watcher's General Store

Mystery Bird on Sailboat - 09/14/01


Dear Bird Folks,

For the past week there has been a huge bird sitting on the very top of a sailboat mast in Rock Harbor in Orleans. It almost looks like a turkey, but it never moves. Have you seen this bird? Is there something wrong with it or are turkeys stupid like they say and it doesn't know how to get off the sailboat?

Ron, Eastham

Hi Ron,

I have had quite a few calls about this bird. Some folks thought it was a hawk and others thought it was a vulture. So finally last Saturday, I ventured out of my air-conditioned shop to walk among the boat people at Rock Harbor and to check out this bird. And low and behold (do people still use that phrase?), the mystery bird was there, just as everyone said. It only took a short time to determine that the hawk and vulture people were way off, but those who guessed turkey got it on the nose. High atop the mast of the tallest sailboat in Rock Harbor, sat a handsome wild turkey. I instantly understood why the bird liked it up there. From that height, it had one of the best views on Cape Cod. In theory it could see the entire harbor and most of Cape Cod Bay. However, this bird couldn't see anything. This poor turkey was totally blind. My guess is that it has been since birth since its eyes are made of plastic, just like the rest of the bird. Yes, Ron, the bird that you have been looking at is a fake bird, fresh off the shelf of Kmart. Although it looked real to me for a second, too, the price tag hanging off the back made me suspicious.

My thought is that the boat owner put the turkey up there in hopes of keeping off the cormorants. But I wasn't there long before a cormorant landed comfortably on top of the turkey and went to sleep. I guess a bird whose eyes are good enough to catch fish under water, is not about to be fooled by anything Kmart has to offer. And besides, why would anyone think that a cormorant, or any bird, is afraid of a turkey? Turkeys are the birds of peace, or is that the dove? Whatever, you get the point.

To answer your other question, Ron, wild turkeys are not stupid at all. It is barnyard turkeys that are the dumb ones. Those poor turkeys have had the brains bred out of them. Turkey growers seem to have found a way to raise turkeys without brains. Tasty butter is now living where the brains should be. Wild turkeys are very smart and clever and seem to be making a strong comeback in the face of the pressure that is driving other birds out. It is common knowledge that Benjamin Franklin wanted the wild turkey to become the national bird of the United States, but the other aging lawmakers seemd to have more in common with the bald eagle. It is also rumored that because they are so clever and cunning, Franklin often hired turkeys to do his income taxes. However, this has never been proven.

If anyone wants to see the mystery bird, it is on the right hand side of Rock Harbor in Orleans just behind Captain Cass's fish place. Or better yet, just stop into Kmart and you can see all the turkeys you want.



Artwork by Catherine Clark


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