Monday, November 21, 2016

Episode 343 (11-21-16): Wild Turkey and Water

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (3:34)

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, images, and additional information follow below.

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 11-18-16.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of November 21, 2016.

This week, we re-do an episode from November 2012 featuring a Thanksgiving-sound mystery.  Have a listen for about 15 seconds, and see if you know what this familiar call has to do with water.

SOUNDS - ~15 sec

You’ve been listening to a Wild Turkey call, and if you guessed that a full-grown domestic turkey may drink 1 to 2 gallons of water per week, you’re a poultry expert!  But we’ve used the call of this non-aquatic bird to make the point that all birds need water.   In fact, birds are largely water; studies have measured birds’ body mass at 60 to 70 percent water.  Birds get water from obvious sources like ponds and streams but also from less obvious places, such as dew and the water contained in birds’ food.  In addition, birds conserve water in several ways.  First, like mammals, birds use their skin covering, behavior, and internal anatomy to reduce the water used to maintain a constant body temperature.  Second, like reptiles, birds excrete nitrogen waste in uric acid, a substance that requires little water.  And third, again like most reptiles, birds use a shell to maintain a watery environment for eggs laid on land or other relatively dry surfaces.

While the role of water is obvious for ducks, shorebirds, and other aquatic bird species, managing this fundamental substance is essential for all of our feathered friends.

Thanks to Lang Elliott for permission to use this week’s sounds, from the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs.  And we close with some original music inspired by Wild Turkeys, “Turkey Tune,” composed for Virginia Water Radio by Torrin Hallett, a student at Oberlin College and Conservatory in Ohio.  Happy Thanksgiving!

MUSIC - ~24 sec


For more Virginia water sounds, music, and information, visit us online at, or call us at (540) 231-5463. Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment. Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close the show. In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This episode is a slightly revised repeat of Episode 137 (11-19-12), which has been archived.

The sounds of the Wild Turkey were taken from the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs-Eastern Region CD set, by Lang Elliott with Donald and Lillian Stokes (Time Warner Audio Books, copyright 1997), used with permission of Lang Elliott, whose work is available online at the “Music of Nature” Web site,

Thanks to Dr. Dean Stauffer of the Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment for his help with this episode.

“Turkey Tune” is copyright 2016 by Torrin Hallett, used with permission.  In 2016-17, Torrin is a fourth-year student at Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio, majoring in horn performance, music composition, and math major.  More information about Torrin is available at his Web site,  Thanks very much to Torrin for composing the piece especially for Virginia Water Radio.

Male Wild Turkeys in Ohio during fall in 2001. Photo by Steve Maslowski, made available for public use the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Digital Library, online at, accessed 11-21-16.

Wild Turkey at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts, May 31, 2011. Photo by Matt Poole, made available for public use the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Digital Library, online at, accessed 11-21-16.


Used in Audio

H. I. Ellis and J. R. Jehl, Jr., “Total Body Water and Body Composition in Phalaropes and Other Birds,” Physiological Zoology, Vol. 64, No. 4 (1991), pages 973-984.

Richard W. Hill, Comparative Physiology of Animals: An Environmental Approach, Harper and Row, New York, N.Y., 1976.

National Research Council, Nutritional Requirements of Poultry: 9th Ed., National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 1994, page 16; available online at (Table 1.1, “Water Consumption by Turkeys and Chickens,” notes that a “large white turkey female” at 20 weeks consumes an estimated 7040 ml water per week, or about 1.9 gallons [1 gallon = 3.785 liters]; this can vary considerably due to temperature, salt intake, etc.).

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ (VDGIF) “Wild Turkey Information” Web page, and the VDGIF’s “Fish and Wildlife Information Service” Web page at

Joel Carl Welty, The Life of Birds, 2nd Ed., W. B. Saunders, Philadelphia, Penn., 1975.

For More Information about Birds

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, “All About Birds,” online at

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology and American Ornithologists’ Union, “Birds of North America Online,” online at (subscription required).

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society, “eBird” Web site at  Here you can find locations of species observations made by contributors, and you can sign up to contribute your own observations.

Virginia Society of Ornithology, online at  The Society is non-profit organization dedicated to the study, conservation, and enjoyment of birds in the Commonwealth.

Xeno-canto Foundation Web site at  The site provides bird songs from around the world.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above ( Please see specifically the “Birds” subject category.


The episode may help with Virginia 2013 Music SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

This episode may also help with the following Virginia’s 2010 Science Standards of Learning (SOLs):

Grades K-6 Earth Patterns, Cycles, and Change Theme
3.9 – Water cycle, including sources of water, energy driving water cycle, water essential for living things, and water limitations and conservation.

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 - Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.

Grades K-6 Life Processes Theme
K.7 – basic needs and processes of plants and animals.
1.5 - animals’ basic needs and distinguishing characteristics.
3.4 - behavioral and physiological adaptations.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
5.5 - cell structures and functions, organism classification, and organism traits.

Life Science Course
LS. 4 - organisms’ classification based on features.
LS.9 - adaptations for particular ecosystems’ biotic and abiotic factors, including characteristics of land, marine, and freshwater environments.

Biology Course
BIO.8 - dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at