Metro

Flock of turkeys circling dead cat in video is both ‘creepy’ and ‘rare’

David Scarpitti has been working as a state wildlife biologist and so-called resident turkey expert for around a decade, and in that time, he’s never seen anything quite like the video that went viral Thursday showing a flock of the large birds circling a dead cat on a street in Randolph.

So, he showed it to colleagues — some with 40 years experience in the biology sector, who are respected in the industry.

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But even they were slightly perplexed by the ritualistic nature of the turkeys’ behavior.

“They’re scratching their heads,” said Scarpitti. “I think the story will spread wide and far given how unique and unusual it is.”

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The video was posted to Twitter early Thursday morning, and by 3 p.m. it had been shared thousands of times.

In the 24-second clip, more than a dozen turkeys can be seen slowly pacing around what’s believed to be a dead cat in the center of the group.

“This is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” the person who took the video can be heard saying. “Bro, this is wild.”

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Wild indeed.

While it’s certainly “strange” and “exceptionally rare” — and creeping people out — Scarpitti said the likely explanation for the eerie behavior is this: cats are a predator of turkeys, and the birds were probably assessing the situation to gauge whether the feline was a direct threat.

As for why they were seen circling a deceased animal, Scarpitti said the flock’s leader probably started walking around the cat first and then the rest of the birds just fell in line.

“I’m not sure they quite understand it’s a carcass in the road,” he said. “But there’s always a ring leader with one in charge, and she likely encountered it to evaluate the threat. And as she is doing that, the rest are following suit. It’s just really creepy and weird.”

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.
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