Monday, August 16, 2021



In the Garden: Talking Turkeys at Greenwood



Both the Day and Blanchard families celebrated farming on a small scale and avian life has long enlivened the landscape at Greenwood Gardens. Ever since the arrival of our new turkey flock this spring, the colorful birds have become a magnet for garden visitors. Relatively sleek in appearance when humans are not present, our gobblers (male turkeys) will fan their tails and drag their wings in a display of courtship while they stride across the field to perform once they become aware of visitors at the barnyard fence!

“Having spent time with our current flock on their side of the fence,” writes Greenwood co-founder Peter P. Blanchard III (greeting visitors in photo below), “I believe that the gobblers’ behavior around humans is less of an aggressive posture than pure showmanship. The birds seem curious about the visitors’ presence and reactions. Having encountered a particularly feisty rooster, I find that turkeys are peaceful around humans.”
Our adopted adult turkeys—a magnificent cinnamon-colored Bourbon Red gobbler and hen, along with two silver, black, and white Narragansett males and hens—did not start life in the same flock, so once they were brought together, a pecking order was quickly established. The two Narragansett brothers worked as a team and following several minutes of charging and scuffling, they achieved dominance in the flock and peace has reigned ever since.

All domesticated turkeys descend from wild turkeys indigenous to North America. According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, turkey fossils have been unearthed across Mexico and the southern United States with “some dating from more than five million years ago.” Our domesticated flock’s physical features—taloned feet, small ear holes, and featherless, brightly colored heads and necks—confirm their primeval origins. And like their ancient ancestors, gobblers and hens will open their beaks and pant heavily with the assistance of pulsating throats to cool themselves beneath the summer sun. Both wild and domestic turkeys vigorously defend their nests and females will continue to feed their newly hatched brood until they can fend for themselves.

Cornell also indicates that domesticated turkeys have been part of human lives for centuries: “In the early 1500s, European explorers brought home wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) from Mexico, where native people had domesticated the birds centuries earlier…. Later, when English colonists settled on the Atlantic Coast, they brought [their] domesticated turkeys with them.”

Through the ages, people have practiced selective breeding, primarily as a food source but also for the joy of living with colorful, tame pets like the Greenwood flock that delights and entertains both staff and visitors alike.

Hours & Admission


Greenwood Gardens is open to the public Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through November 7, 2021 between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Entry is by vehicle and advance timed ticket registration only. Tours are self-guided. Visit for COVID guidelines and to purchase tickets.
Members and children under 3: free
Adults (13 to 64): $15
Seniors (65+) and students with ID: $10
Children (3 to 12): $5