One year I noticed a blue jay that I thought was dying of some terrible disease; his head was nearly bald. He looked a little creepy, a tiny blue turkey vulture. I finally asked a birder friend what he thought might be wrong with the bird, and he enlightened me that second-year birds molt and look like that until the new feathers grow in. I was reassured and stopped feeling sorry for him; he was going through his uncomfortable adolescent stage; happens to everybody.
Several times since last spring I have seen a wild hen turkey and her chicks. Usually we cross paths while we're all traveling down my little country road. Lately I have been seeing the brood at the top of the driveway field. I'm sure it's the same group. There are eight of them, all but one not quite full size, and the seven clearly follow the biggest one's lead on where they should go and the necessary degree of urgency. Last Friday after work as I entered the driveway, I was happy to see my flock. Like all animals that travel in groups, they appear as one mass when they're moving. I slowed the car and finally stopped so I could count their heads as they strutted and bobbed a hundred feet away, parallel to me, next to the treeline. They were not noticeably afraid, but cautiously aware of me, and as I watched, each bird just melted into the low growth at the edge of the field. One by one, they were there . . then beginning to blend with the greenery, losing their turkey shapes . . .and finally, poof! out of sight. Impossible to identify the moments at which each one became invisible.
From a distance wild turkeys look simply brown. Up close their feathers are iridescent: bronze; green; russet. I know that only because a friend stopped by a few years ago, flush with his excitement at having shot one. He had the corpse in the bed of his truck and I was mesmerized by the beauty of the subtle coloration and the silky softness of the feathers.
When Husband was a little boy, his father found a crow baby and raised it. The crow bonded with my father-in-law, would wait at the top of a telephone pole near the house in the evenings, calling, until the truck arrived, then swoop down to sit on Bill's shoulder. He would groom his human's head, hair by hair, and pick cigarettes out of the pack in Bill's pocket. Husband says that as the crow grew more mature, he would fly away for short periods of time and come back a little roughed up. He wasn't part of a flock, and as an outsider he apparently suffered some discourteous treatment. The day came, of course, that the crow didn't return.
I am once again beginning to see trios of crows. Groups of three crows are apparently a commonly observed phenomenon. I have read a couple of explanations for it. One story is that a daughter from the last brood hangs around through the next breeding season to help mom and pop. Another one that I like better is that crow families trade offspring to other parents, so the young ones will learn how to act. Sort of a boarding school for adolescent crows.