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Observations of the Wild Gobbler


by resurrectedwarrior

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I blink sweat from my eyes and hoist a backpack, heavy with equipment, onto my already sore shoulders. My guide, a pensive yellow Ogrin named Puckles, is a minimalist, and refuses to carry anything but a canteen. He is also a conservationist with the Neopia Central Animal Wildlife Authority, which is why I requested him as my guide.

Our subject of observation today is the Gobbler, a common petpet. The species was given out to the whole Neopian population as an Advent Calendar item in Year Eight, so this particular petpet is easily available. Today, only a year or so later, it has become a symbol of generosity and thankfulness—at least in my household.

Much is known concerning the Gobbler species: They’re capable of producing a whole host of clucks, putts, and “purrs”, have around 5,000 feathers, and are widely known for their striking blue heads and red sacs that hang to either side of their beaks. Gobblers have been recorded in flight as fast as 50 miles per hour (or 84 kilometers per hour), and are omnivorous foragers. They prefer berries, but have been known to eat small vertebrates or insects.

You may ask, if so much is known about the Gobbler why am I going out to see it today? Well, that’s a good and honest question. The answer, simply, is that I’m curious. I want to get as close to these amazing creatures as I can and see if there’s anything that may have been overlooked, anything that can tell me more about them. As always, I’m curious about their social lives, where they live, how they care for their young—all that. If I can answer any of those questions, that’s great. But today, I’m just going to get to know them.

About 9am, Puckles and I set out from the Neopia Central main shops area, past the Book Shop and straight into the forest. We’ll be traveling for some time before we come to Gobbler territory.

For about an hour, I familiarize myself with the scenery: Tall fir trees are to be seen everywhere, along with a smattering of other varieties I’m not familiar with. Puckles informs me that, sometimes, Corn Trees are found in the forests around Neopia Central, as well as Tree Weeds. We’re passing by several varieties of those. Interesting.

There are plenty of places for animals to forage. The undergrowth is considerable. There are several fallen trees being munched at by worms and petpetpets, nut-producing trees and berry bushes, and a small body of water up ahead. Yes, I believe we may be getting close to Gobbler country.

Scarcely ten minutes go by before Puckles spots our first specimen: a large male. His feathers almost shimmer, indicating the status of his health (unhealthy Aves tend to have dull feathers when they’re malnourished). His blue-toned head is plunged into the shallow bank surrounding the pond. I see his shoulder blades twitch, a little, before he withdraws and something small and slimy slides down his throat. I think it might be some kind of amphibian, but I’m not sure. Either way, that’s consistent with what we know of the Gobbler diet.

The Gobbler turns from the water and struts away, oblivious to our presence. His head bobs forward and back, as if he’s proud of his recently consumed dinner, and he almost waddles like a Feepit would. I’ve witnessed the waddle before in tame Gobblers, but I’d always written it off as a defect bred from captivity. Now I can see that it’s not a defect at all, but in fact is the way Gobblers are designed to walk.

Our subject struts down a game path that encircles the pond. I can see where he’s headed: a grassy field just around the bend. He clicks and clucks as he goes, flapping his wings alternately—but not enough to take flight. Slowly, I edge out of my hiding spot and follow, Puckles close behind.

Within moments, in the field, I can see other Gobblers emerging from the forest, both male and female. They’re all making sounds similar to the male I’ve been following, and they’re also flicking their wings back and forth in the pseudo-flight.

Puckles and I crouch behind a Spiky Bush, watching. The petpets flutter and cluck their way towards each other. Their bright colors—though the females are darker—contrast against blond grasses, already trodden down and laying flat. I have a marvelous view.

I cannot help but wonder, however, if other petpets and beasts of the forest also have excellent vantage points. Some instinct must surely make the Gobblers aware of this; it simply isn’t natural for an animal as distinctive as the Gobbler to expose itself in such a bold manner. At least to me it isn’t. I thoroughly expect some larger beast to come roaring out of the wood and send this little band waddling for their lives.

The Gobblers—I count at least ten—come together in a circular formation. Everyone’s bobbing heads, flapping wings, and clucking—almost squawking. With the cacophony of ringing Gobbler calls and the ruckus of wriggling wings and heads, it’s a wonder to me that they haven’t been attacked.

And then, they stop. The Gobblers stare at each other, perfectly frozen. Only a light breeze coaxes movement out of them—from their outer layer of feathers. Perhaps they’ve caught the scent of a predator. Puckles and I exchange glances. I hold my breath.

One of the females waddles into the center of the circle, solemn. There’s no wing-flapping, no clucking: nothing to indicate excitement of any sort. She extends her neck high, and then, without warning, belts out a shrieking cry.

The other Gobblers rustle their feathers and then, in unison, begin to waddle in a circle around the female. Then they turn and waddle the other way, then out, then in. And then they spin around!

They start clicking and putting together. Click, click, putt PURRR! Click, click, putt, PURRR! Click click putt... Their movements seem, oddly, to synchronize with their sound effects...

I watch their movements. The spinning, twirling, fluttering. The clicking. The coordinated movements and sound. Could it be that I’m seeing wild animals...

The Gobbler break off into trios and flutter lightly off the ground, then land in formation, clucking and purring all the while.

... dance?

Before I can nudge Puckles to ask him if my assessment is accurate, shadows move at the edges of the field. Surely this is the predator I’ve been afraid of.

An Urchull skitters onto the field, ears twitching.

Behind him, other petpets follow: more Urchulls, but also Babaas, Eizzils, Petoots—even a cluster of Pinklets and Tigermice. All of them are chittering and snicking and squeaking in unison.

The Gobblers barely acknowledge their presence; they continue in their previous circular formation, but they space themselves a little farther apart now. This space, I see, is filled with the other petpets.

It’s a dance. It’s an inter-species petpet dance. In the wild. I’m quite nearly beside myself with bafflement mixed with a sound serving of awe and giddiness. I can’t help but wonder if anything like this has been observed before.

Puckles is beside me, taking meticulous notes. He has drawn several diagrams of the dance-formation, noted which petpet species have arrived and in what quantity, and has tried to make a written approximation of the call-patterns. He’s as enthralled as I am.

We watch for a long time. The “dance,” or whatever it is, lasts several hours. The petpets excuse themselves in ways particular to their own species. The Urchulls twitch their ears vigorously, then run straight up the trees. The Babaas bleat a farewell. Pinklets and Tigermice squeak and scurry off.

Eventually, only the Gobblers are left. They come together and form the circle again, this time with a male in the center. He stretches his neck as high as it can go, and then gives a long cry. Everyone is silent until he makes his exit. Then, the Gobblers waddle off one at a time.

Puckles taps my shoulder, smiles, and motions for me to come. It’s time to go.

As soon as we’re far enough away, he starts speaking rapidly. What we just witnessed, he tells me, has only been seen a handful of times. No one knows how or why it started—the Interspecies Ball, as he calls it—but records indicate that the Gobblers start it every time. Further study of wild Gobblers has indicated pax, or peace, tends to fall upon otherwise violent species when they come within range of Gobblers. They indeed have very few natural predators, which explains why they were plentiful enough to be given at the Advent Calendar.

And I’ve found out another thing, now that I’ve have time to research on my own. Every so often, there’s a drastic decrease in petpet violence and death. And, interestingly, the timeframe of each previous Gobbler dance observation corresponds with one of these decreases (though there are far more decreases than observations).

So what did I witness? This was certainly more than an anomalous event. This was a gesture of peace, of kindness, a reprieve to the often brutal environment of the wild. And it was started by the Gobbler: a true peacemaker.

Author’s Note: The information in the third paragraph is comparable to Meleagris gallopavo. Other Observations articles may be found in the following issues: 136 (Sauropod), 174 (Snowickle), 177 (Skree), and 180 (Tigermouse).

 
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