Archivists in the Bentley Historical Library are used to seeing part of the North Campus deer herd wander through the library’s exterior courtyard–a beautiful outdoor space adjoining woods. But in January both researchers and archivists were astounded to see them joined by some of the largest birds in North America–wild turkeys. As the startled observers watched, the birds flew to the tops of pine trees adjacent to the courtyard and then glided back down, their five-foot-wide wings darkening a chunk of sky. Once on the ground, snuggled against the building, the birds morphed into slightly squished three-foot balls of brown stuff, heads and legs invisible.
Like white-tailed deer, wild turkeys were nearly hunted out of existence in Michigan by 1900 but have since rebounded. A lone, wild-ish turkey has been seen for the past several years on the Broadway hill; it waits at a bus stop with people and preens in the middle of Baits Dr.
Since their first appearance at the Bentley in January, the “rafter” of turkeys has returned occasionally, usually on very cold days. They may be drawn by the warmth of the forty-year-old building, the insects that survive in that environment, or both.
The turkeys generally keep a low hedge between themselves and the deer. The birds stick close to the building, while the deer seek arboreal munchies a bit farther away. So far, they’re coexisting nicely.