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OUTDOORS: Guineas, not peacocks, used to be farm regulars

I can remember fondly years ago pulling in a farm yard and hearing a multitude of chicken-sized birds singing their songs.

It was known back then that they were the best watchdogs, as they would always let a farmer know when someone pulled into his or her property. Because there was always a flock of them, their voices could be heard from quite a distance away.

As near as I can tell, the birds were imported from New Guinea around the turn of the 19th Century. I also don't know if any of them ended up on a farm menu. Most of the ones I found were kept as pets. They were not a colorful bird, but had light blue and brown plumage, which was not unattractive, and yellow legs. The male and female looked alike.

The peacock did not take up residence on very many farms. These birds were brought in from South Asia and were considered a wealthy addition to a farm. They were brought in around 1879 by wealthy businessmen who had ranches in California. In those days, having exotic and unusual animals and birds was a sign of prominence.

Around 200 feathers make up the male peacock anatomy. It looks like a train with many stunning colors. He is larger than the female. It has what looks like eye spots on the tail. The male spreads this tail to attract a mate. Unlike other birds, it is the female who decides who her partner will be.

Peacocks many times do not get along with other farm birds. They have been known to attack their reflection in a mirror or other reflecting materials. They have also killed chickens and ducks on farms, especially those birds that come from the wild.

Unlike guineas, they were used for table fare out west. They were picked and roasted like turkeys. Some were encased in pie dough before cooking. They can revert back to the wild and, in many cases, they are found in forested hills in California.

These are two of the few imported birds that have not become a nuisance like the English sparrow or grackle.

Fishing report

The continued rains have river systems high and muddy. That, coupled up with cold water, makes for very poor fishing. Boat ramps are full of mud as well. I almost got stuck south of the town of Peru in soft mud last week.

There were a lot of eagles in that area, though, and it was nice to see them. By the way, La Salle Cooling Lake is now open.

Hunting report

The first season for Illinois wild turkeys starts on April 15. Hours are one half hour before sunrise until 1 p.m.

Don't forget the new hunting/fishing, trapping and sportsman's licenses are due April 1.

Duck Unlimited banquet

Don't forget the Ottawa Chapter of Ducks Unlimited Annual Membership Banquet. This event will be held April 6 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, Main St., Ottawa. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with dinner at 7 p.m. Hope to see many of you there.

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