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Turkey Nest at Radnor Lake: 13 Eggs

April 29th, 2008 · 17 Comments · nesting, Radnor Lake, turkey

Good grief, how did they all fit inside her? I still cannot figure that one out. Nature is chock full o’surprises, that’s for sure.

wild turkey nest at Radnor Lake in Nashville Tennessee, April 2008

Today I’d planned a typical, customary dusk hike – until the gathering clouds spurred me to check out the radar. Showers were obviously on the way, so if I was going to get a hike in today, this might be my only chance.

As I ambled down the railroad tie stairs of South Cove hill 2, something bright caught my eye. As I got a little closer, it looked a lot like eggs. It was so strange to see this – especially from the trail – that I figured they MUST be mushrooms or something. I did not get my hopes up.

I took pictures every step of the way as I navigated down the very steep and muddy incline off the trail. The closer I got, the more like aigs these things looked. They were almost white – sort of an off-white. Then I reached it. T’was a nest, all right – a very crude and simple one, made from dead leaves; it was not really much more than a depression in the natural debris of the forest floor as far as I could tell.

wild turkey nest at Radnor Lake in Nashville Tennessee, April 2008

Now I could see the 13 eggs very clearly: they were about the same size as chicken eggs, but they were off-white with small brown speckles, just like the books say.  Twelve turkey eggs per clutch is about average, apparently — which is incredible to me. Only about 35% of turkey nests are successful.

Since there was no bird around, I knew the nest must have been abandoned. There is no way a wild bird – whatever it was, for I could only guess at this point – would maintain a nest less than ten yards from a popular hiking trail. The bird had apparently laid 13 eggs during a period when no hikers passed by, and then been frightened off when the realization hit the bird brain that this nest was far too close to those nasty humans.

wild turkey nest at Radnor Lake in Nashville Tennessee, April 2008

A bit saddened at the dim prospects for the little yolks, I was excited at the same time to have located and photographed such a find. Also, these eggs would make a great meal for some lucky predator, a mammal which may have young ‘uns of its own.

I made my way back up the steep incline to the trail and continued down the ridge, looking back to see how visible the eggs were. They were very easy to see from a large portion of the trail. Unbelievable!

Half an hour later I had turned around and was now retracing my steps. Even though plenty of loops are available when hiking at Radnor Lake, I often double back on the South Cove trail for the extra exercise; after all, this is probably the steepest and longest climb anywhere at Radnor, this section I affectionately call hill 2.

wild turkey nest at Radnor Lake in Nashville Tennessee, April 2008

But something was amiss. I did not see the eggs. They should have been quite obvious, like a single word highlighted on the page of a book with a neon yellow highlighter. Yet I could not see the eggs. Upon closer inspection, the eggs were now being warmed by the feathery belly of a big female turkey! There she was, sitting still on that big clutch of eggs, not moving a muscle except for those necessary to keep an eye on me. She was facing away from the trail, looking back up at me; however, she was so hard to see that I could barely discern her cautious glare.

I took more pictures. These would not turn out all that well since she was so well camouflaged!

It’s going to be very interesting to monitor the progress of this clutch. I hope she has better luck than the Canada goose I saw making a nest under the spillway bridge a few short weeks ago. We shall see.

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17 Comments so far ↓

  • Laurie

    Very cool discovery at the lake! Hopefully you will get to see those baby turkeys. Now you gotta hike that hard trail every day so you don’t miss the hatching.

  • Clay

    Makes for some yummy sandwiches!

  • Tracy

    That is so amazing! I feel so close to God when I experience nature in this way! Amazing how we worry so much about nothing and often times miss the beauty of the things going on around us. Thank you for capturing something so rare for us humans to see and sharing it….very moving!!!

  • Rachel

    So cool! Keep us updated on the progress of the nest, if you can. Wouldn’t it be great to see some hatchlings next time?!

  • Harmony

    That is so cool. I would love to go out there and see them. I had no idea that there were wild turkey’s in TN!

  • Steve L.

    Don’t know a lot about turkeys; they were imported into Oregon a few years ago and are multiplying rapidly and have become a pest in some fairly heavily populated areas. They must have to lay a lot of eggs and take good care of them to grow their numbers so quickly.

  • Cooper

    Hey Steve,
    That’s really amazing ! It’s easy to forget that stuff happens (when I’m) living close to the city all the time. Thanks for the pics,
    Coop

  • Joyce

    How cool is that! What a miracle in store. I am busy watching a family of geese. About five days ago, five goslings hatched out. They are soooo cute. They still have the furry plummage. They are just about invisible among the rocks on the shore of the lake. You have to look real hard and then, all of a sudden, they appear. I bet the baby turkeys will be the same way. You will probably be looking right at them an not see them at first.
    What a miracle. Thanks for sharing.

  • julie

    The kids and I loved your story! That is the coolest thing. Keep us updated on the progress!

  • TomK

    Wonderful. Georgia has such boring trails.

  • Kevin

    I run a website called APEQS which is a blog about the newest and coolest outdoor equipment such as hiking gear, kayaking and rock climbing equipment. What i’m hoping to do is find sites that offer interesting articles on hiking and set up a link exchange as I know my readers would be very interested in visiting. The website is http://www.apeqs.com. Can’t find your contact info on your site so i am leaving this comment. Please email me back and i will put your link up asap

  • Jim

    Wow, that’s amazing. I think the animals in the Radnor area are so conditioned to humans that there is an unusually high potential for witnessing parts of nature that are rarely kept from sight. They simply go about doing what they do in spite of the trails and the hikers who frequent them. It really is a gift to have such an interesting area so close in to the city. Thanks for sharing!

  • David Carrell

    Awesome story and photos, bro! We are blessed to have a place like the Radnor Lake area, so close to all of us in South Nashville. It’s beauty and serenity of its “flora & fauna” always inspire.

  • David Carrell

    I just had outpatient surgery today. Still a little loopy! I hope you can decipher that last paragraph I sent.

  • Jim Arnett, Sr.

    Steve, I’ve been out of town for most of May and was up to my ears in final exams the last part of April and early May. Obviously, you have made a pretty special find. Even though I’ve hunted turkeys for years, I’ve never seen a nest—or setting hen—up close like this. I just hope she was able to get some or all of these to the point of hatching. I’ve been most impressed with the efficiency of Radnor’s raccoons et al. at locating and raiding turtle nests. So, I will be amazed if this hen can convert many (any?) of these eggs to poults. Thanks so much for including me on this and I hope to hear an update from you at your convenience. Continue to enjoy your sallies into Nashville’s latterday Walden.

  • Male Turkey on Display at Radnor Lake

    […] though my turkey sightings at Radnor have been few, the one I will always remember is the female turkey with a nest that could be seen from the South Cove trail in […]

  • Kevin B

    Hi! Just came across your post from 2008 about the wild turkey nest you found at Radnor Lake. I live 1/2 north of Nashville and recently (to my absolute horror) ran over a nesting turkey with a bush hog, and while mom was killed (again, to my deepest regret) most of the eggs somehow survived). I put them in an incubator and 27 days later I had 6 baby turkeys that I raised and released. Anyway, I’m very curious about how the nest you found turned out? Did she hatch them?