On this Thanksgiving Day, consider watching this extraordinary and beautifully filmed Nature documentary in which naturalist Joe Hutto raises 16 wild turkeys from incubation to adulthood, an experience that changed his life. As their turkey mother, Hutto spent over a year in a Florida forest with these birds, each developing a complex and unique relationship with him. He shows us their stages of development, their innate knowledge of the environment, their curiosity and survival instincts. He exults at their distinct personalities, social and emotional lives, individuality and playfulness, and their different appetites for physical affection.
Hutto gets very immersed in their lives, begins to understand their communication, and learns to "talk turkey". He identifies over 30 distinct turkey vocalizations for other animals like rattlesnakes and hawks. He explains how "within each of those calls are inflections that have very different meanings". His bond with one bird in particular, and the way it ends, is especially remarkable and unexpected. En route, Hutto also reveals his own shifting state of mind and what he has learned from this experience about his own life. It might well become hard to see turkeys as "dumb birds" after this documentary, which, incidentally, won the 2012 Emmy for Outstanding Nature Programming.