Art portray of wild turkey at dawn, perched in a cottonwood tree. © Lang ElliottRecording features wild turkeys at dawn, calling from their roost in a cottonwood tree. 1 May 2021. Aravaipa Canyon not far from Klondyke, Arizona. Recording and accompanying art representation © Lang Elliott.

Note: The recording featured above is a “3D binaural soundscape”. Please wear headphones for a profound listening experience that will make you think you’re actually out there, immersed in the natural world!

Wild Turkeys are extremely wary of humans and are usually very difficult to record, except in areas where they are not hunted and have not developed a fear of humans. Such is the case, at least for the time being, in the forested riparian zone in Aravaipa Canyon, a remote desert oasis about a hundred miles east of Phoenix, Arizona.

The native “Gould’s” subspecies (Meleagris gallopavo mexicana) was once common in the mountains and canyons of southeastern Arizona, but was virtually eradicated by the early 1900s, due to over-hunting. Fortunately, a serious reintroduction effort was begun in 2003, with turkeys captured in Mexico being transported to various locations in Arizona’s “sky mountains.” This project has been incredibly successful, and there are now an estimated 1200 (or more) individuals in the region.

Gould's Wild Turkey - male in full display © Lang ElliottGould’s Wild Turkey – male in full display. 30 April 2021 in Aravaipa Canyon not far from Klondyke, Arizona. © Lang Elliott. Tap photo to view full size.

The Nature Conservancy's Aravaipa Canyon Preserve

The Nature Conservancy's Aravaipa Canyon Preserve
40118 Aravaipa Canyon Rd, Willcox, AZ 85643, USA
Direction

The Story:

During my recent visit to Aravaipa Canyon, I made a special effort to get high quality wild turkey recordings. With a little sleuthing, I was able to locate the nighttime roost of a flock of about ten individuals, in a towering cottonwood tree near the head of the canyon, in The Nature Conservancy’s Aravaipa Canyon Preserve. Having obtained permission from the refuge manager, and well before first light, I carefully approached the tree, moving as quietly as possible in order not to disturb the turkeys (which, in retrospect, didn’t seem bothered by me rustling in the brush below their perches). I set my soundscape mic almost directly under the tree and then left it there to document the calling that occurs at dawn, before the turkeys finally fly to the ground and quickly move away from their roost.

When I listened to my recording later in the day, I was impressed by how pristine and clear it is. Such a wonderful mix of the sounds made by the turkeys and the abundance of other rather low-key nature sounds occurring in the background. I was so enthused by the result that I tried again the next morning, accompanied by fellow recordist Christine Hass of Wild Mountain Echoes. The results of my second try were nice, but much of that recording ended up being fowled by a pesky bell’s vireo that sang loudly from a nearby perch for minutes on end. Oh well, that’s the way of things, I guess … all it takes is one unwelcome loudmouth to make a mess of it all!

Gould's Wild Turkey showing white rump feathers. © Lang ElliottGould’s Wild Turkey showing white rump feathers typical of the subspecies. 30 April 2021. Aravaipa Canyon not far from Klondyke, Arizona. Photo© Lang Elliott. Tap to view full size.

I am pleased that this flock was located at the head of the canyon, where the creek bed is dry as a bone. Farther downstream, it is nearly impossible to get away from the loud gurgle of Aravaipa Creek, which is ubiquitous (unless one explores various side canyons). I managed to capture several other wild turkey recordings during my stay, but none compare to this splendid portrayal of individuals calling from the cottonwood tree at the break of dawn.

In conclusion, I think you’ll agree that I truly deserve some kind of reward for doing such a good job … so maybe if everyone claps loudly for a moment or two to cheer me on, I’ll hear the applause as it precipitates out of the digital ether, and falls like rain all around me. Oh my … that would be supremely refreshing indeed! Actually, though … just leave a comment below and that will cheer me up for sure.

Gould's Wild Turkey - male in full display with two females in the background. © Lang ElliottGould’s Wild Turkey – male in full display with two females in the background. 30 April 2021. Aravaipa Canyon not far from Klondyke, Arizona. Photo© Lang Elliott. Tap to view full size.

What to listen for:

Various turkey sounds can be heard, including the yelps of females and immatures, the gobbles of males, and occasional outbursts of liquid, staccato chirts or purts, which signify alarm (perhaps they saw a hawk fly by?). Listen carefully and you’ll hear another amazing sound, made by the males … a sudden thump! or chump! followed by a very low pitched hum that rises slightly in pitch at the end (your headphones need to have good bass response in order for you to hear this). This sound is a bit of a mystery. To my ear, the introductory thump! sounds like it’s made by a sudden movement of the feathers, while the hum … well, I simply don’t know how that is produced.

In the background, listen for the coos of both white-winged and mourning doves. A cardinal sounds off at times. A red-tailed hawk screams loudly one time, and a gray hawk gives musical whistles toward the end. Gila woodpeckers call in the distance. And then there’s the cow moos and rooster crows. And some high-pitchy bird songs I can’t identify. Please let me know what you hear, species in the background that I’ve missed.

Wild Turkey rear view

p.s. Note that the photo at the top of my post is an “art portrayal.” I was unable to get any good shots of turkeys in the cottonwood tree, but I felt I needed a strong image to set the mood. So I constructed one using a photo of a dead tree limb on a cottonwood that I took today near my home in upstate New York. Then I replaced the sky with a sunrise I photographed during one of my many journeys, and finally I added a turkey silhouette that I found on the internet (free clip-art). So … the image at the top is “artwork” my friends, not an actual photograph! I trust you’re not disappointed.

end of post divider graphic

As always, I truly appreciate your feedback, so please leave a comment below.

Naturally Yours,

just lang signature

4702-1Friends … if you find that my feature articles have a positive impact on your life, please help support my effort by making a modest donation.

Donate Now

Dear Readers: Would you like to have your picture show up next to your comment, rather than an empty silhouette? Click here to learn how.

Click Here to Subscribe to Comments
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

63 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dal Leite
2 months ago

Thanks Lang. Just got a chance to listen. Makes me feel differently about the “wild” turkeys that have invaded my Contra Costa, California neighborhood in the last 15 years. I’ve lived here over 60 years, and the birds are definitely new arrivals, whose noises I have not always welcomed. Until now. Your recording has reminded me that they, too, make “music”, as much as the crows and chickadees, and other recent neighbors who’ve come over the years. Thanks for expanding my horizons.

Chris Renna
2 months ago

Awesome Lang. I was lucky enough to have 22 turkeys nesting just outside my yard most of last winter and spring here in New England! I did a lot of documenting of them, but these recordings of yours are sublime. Those sounds at 2:48 I have not heard before!
Thanks for this and hope you are well,
Chris

Al Maze
Al Maze
2 months ago

Thank you, Lang, for once again sharing the sounds of nature with the rest of the world. So good…

Colin Hunter
2 months ago

Superb recording as always Lang! Sending a cloud of applause all the way from Paris, France.

Colin Hunter
2 months ago
Reply to  Lang Elliott

I have been fortunate to have had a number of recording opportunities in recent months, for which I am grateful particularly in these chalenging times. These have all been short one or two day trips but hope to one day have the opportunity to leave for a few months such as your trip to the Southwest. It’s so sad to learn about the drought and the impact this is having on local wildlife. I fear we will see a repeat of this in years to come. Sadly this is a global phenomenon rather than something localised. Hopefully mother nature will… Read more »

Mark J Demyan
Mark J Demyan
2 months ago

Thank you love the sound of turkey’s…have experienced this a dozen times at the Family Farm in New Bedford, Ohio. You have brought back memories of my youth with my Dad….60+ years of “the Beauty of NATURE ” with Dad who has moved on to Paradise 7 yrs ago

John Johnson
John Johnson
2 months ago

Lang, all of your recordings are so remarkable, there is nothing else like them. Great work! Outstanding.

2021-05-12_08-02-30_961.jpg
John Johnson
John Johnson
2 months ago
Reply to  Lang Elliott

Yes!! I believe that about covers it all!

John Johnson
John Johnson
2 months ago
Reply to  Lang Elliott

Yes it is. I too have lost my high freq hearing, and when warbler watching, I use my “super ear” with earbuds. It really pulls in birdsong I can no longer hear naturally.

CF8ADF8A-C9C6-4CED-91C4-D84E692775CD.jpeg
Karen Smith
Karen Smith
2 months ago

Hi Lang, the recording was superb, as usual
I’ve witnessed them courting each other in the early morning hours on the way to work. Why do the males drop their wings and drag them? They make a lot of noise and wondering what they’re communicating. It does wear on their wings. Their whole ritual is pretty impressive.
Thanks for what you do!

181744_10150094543447045_6579394_n.jpg
Ben Gottesman
Ben Gottesman
2 months ago

Absolutely amazing. Clapping from brooklyn w the vigor of a ruffed grouse. Hope our paths cross again soon for another recording trip!

Lisa Rainsong
2 months ago

Lang, I’m really enjoying the diversity of turkey sounds! Thank you for sharing this gorgeous recording!

Lisa Rainsong
2 months ago
Reply to  Lang Elliott

I sure am! The high point of my year!

Mary Pernal
Mary Pernal
2 months ago

Thanks for this beautiful recording. You are making me want to become more connected to the natural world.

Eliza
Eliza
2 months ago

Impressive photos, Lang, even the ‘artwork’ looks real to me. (I didn’t know that there is a white-rumped turkey subspecies.) It is rare to hear so many turkey calls at once, at least around here in the Northeast. Nice work!

Rich Besser
Rich Besser
2 months ago

Wow, simply amazing. Talk about loudmouths, I‘ve always been s as maxed and bewildered by wild turkey vocalizations. I remember the first time I heard one in predawn hours along Missouri’s Current River. Having never heard one, being from WI before they were reintroduced, I was totally bewildered ’til I saw one launch itself from a high bluff above the River.

Last edited 2 months ago by Lang Elliott
Jeff Luoma
Jeff Luoma
2 months ago

Lang, you are a gift to humanity. Not everyone can appreciate it, but these recordings and details help us document, learn about, and love our living skin of the planet. I like the flying sounds at the end!

Margie
Margie
2 months ago

Love the hens yelping. Great recording.

Martin Winfield
2 months ago

I had to chuckle listening to these turkeys, as they reminded me of an art project I did years ago. I recorded a tame (pet) turkey then layered & looped the recording. By the end of our show, none of us wanted to hear turkeys ever again! But it’s a different matter hearing them in their natural habitat like this, and alongside all of the other creatures which make up this wonderful early morning soundscape. It’s great that you’ve captured them flying off at the end too, those wing-beats are amazing & give the recording real context, as does your… Read more »

Judy Nietsche
Judy Nietsche
2 months ago

A muggy afternoon in Western Massachusetts is transformed for me with this amazing recording, and I so enjoyed reading your prose as well. Thank you so much. We have had an interesting spring and early summer here, though, with more wood thrushes in the brushy, jungle area behind my house than I can ever remember—early mornings are magical with their music.

Cynthia Palmer
Cynthia Palmer
2 months ago
Reply to  Lang Elliott

The Wood Thrush population here on Dauphin Island (Alabama) is also a bit higher this year; appears many stayed after the April migration. Your recordings are always spectacular, Lang, and as the Comments reflect, the turkeys and supplemental polite, low volume chirps and tweets, wing flaps are brilliant. (With or w/o rain, wind, gurgling water all aok!)

Parker Davis
2 months ago

Hey Lang, great recording! Not only the turkey vocalizations, the wing sounds at the end are incredible. One of my favorite birds.

Here are the other species that I hear, some of which you’ve already mentioned:

Northern Cardinal
Cassin’s Kingbird
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Lucy’s Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Bell’s Vireo
Gila Woodpecker
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Common Raven?
Summer Tanager
Bewick’s Wren
Black Phoebe
Gambel’s Quail
Abert’s Towhee
Red-tailed Hawk
Bullock’s Oriole
Gray Hawk
Hooded Oriole

Last edited 2 months ago by Lang Elliott
Lisa Blanton
Lisa Blanton
2 months ago

I enjoyed this. Thanks & congrats for your patience. We have wild turkeys in Santa Ynez valley too. I took this pic in January near Nojoqui Falls Park. Happy travels!

Lisa Blanton
Lisa Blanton
2 months ago
Reply to  Lisa Blanton

Sorry, it wouldn’t let me upload the photo.

Lisa Blanton
Lisa Blanton
2 months ago
Reply to  Lang Elliott

Yep, that’s the reason. I sent 2 pics to your email. Thank you!

Carolyn
2 months ago

Thank you for your wonderful and important work.

John
2 months ago

Very nice work. Makes me miss Aravaipa, especially that side.

Teria
Teria
2 months ago

Lang …….. thank you for this delight, wonder and awe-filled posting 🙂
It was also soothing….(for me :-)……which I deeply appreciate !

Most…..gratefully yours,
~~~Teria~~~

PS – Your pictures and fuller back-stories that you’ve been including in your post-trip blogs are really enriching each of these aural ‘journeys’ for me.
Keep it up dear heart 🙂

Susanne Shrader
Susanne Shrader
2 months ago

I really enjoyed this recording because there’s not water in the background. Usually you have some kind of running water or rain and that just puts me to sleep. I listened to this whole recording. I’m also glad you do it in a blog form because I don’t do Facebook, and many people don’t. Keep it up. I also like your montage “photo”

Wendy Ernst
Wendy Ernst
2 months ago

I don’t usually comment publicly on anything, but I have to share my appreciation for this wonderfully rich recording. Thank you for putting in all the time and effort to bring these remote sounds to us armchair travelers. It’s like getting a glimpse into a secret world that goes on just fine without us humans.

Daniel Keifer
Daniel Keifer
2 months ago

Terrific recording! I have never heard the variety of calls and individual intonations captured before. Thanks for capturing it all.

Sonja Stupel
Sonja Stupel
2 months ago

I love listening to this, and yes Lang, you deserve a reward – I’m clapping – hope you hear it. Several years ago I spent the weekend after T-day at Aravaipa, and was delighted to see the flock of turkeys right outside the guest house. Listening to this brings back such great memories. What a gift. Thank-you!

Last edited 2 months ago by Lang Elliott
chris davidson
chris davidson
2 months ago

It’s a beautiful recording !

John
2 months ago
Reply to  Lang Elliott

Our old greyhound is tilting her head at the wonderful sounds. I believe she approves and enjoys, as do I.

Logo - reversed

Subscribe to My Newsletter

Join my mailing list to be notified when I publish new articles or blog posts.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This