On a recent neighborhood walk with dear friends B and D, I was gently reminded that I hadn’t, ahem, posted anything in quite a long time.
These walks are especially lovely in the spring, when yards are bursting with colorful blooms and flowering trees, and we share the street with our local marauding wild turkeys (flock? rafter? gaggle? the Internet seems undecided.)
Mixing metaphors, I headed down the turkey rabbit hole to uncover the following facts:
- An adult wild turkey has about 5,500 feathers (did someone actually count them, and what kind of a job is that?), including the 18 tail feathers that make up the male’s distinct fan. Many of the feathers are iridescent.
- Wild turkeys can fly and have a top flight speed of about 55 miles per hour.
- Their powerful legs can run at speeds up to 25 miles per hour. (In our neighborhood, they never seem to move faster than a leisurely stroll.)
- The average lifespan of a wild turkey is three to five years, and the oldest known wild turkey lived to be about 13 years old. They weigh from 5-20 pounds.
- Wild turkeys see in color and have excellent daytime vision– three times better than a human’s eyesight. However, they have poor night vision and become warier as it grows darker.
- Most of their diet is grass and grain, but wild turkeys will also eat insects, nuts, berries, and small reptiles. Preferred feeding times are early morning and evening.
- A wild turkey’s gobble can be heard up to one mile away and is a primary means for a tom to communicate with his harem of hens. The calls also warn other toms away from territory already claimed.
- During the winter months, hens and toms live in separate flocks. As the weather warms up, males leave their winter flock and move to mating grounds to attract females. (Think spring break with feathers!)
- Male turkeys will mate with as many female turkeys as possible. (Are hens just more selective?)
- The wild turkey’s bald head– red, pink, white or blue– and fleshy facial wattles can quickly change color with excitement or emotion. The flap of skin that hangs down over a turkey’s bill is called a snood and can also change color, shape, and size based on mood and activities.
- Wild turkeys are very social, making sounds that communicate a range of meaning from calling in their young to mating calls. Sounds include gobble, yelp, cluck, chump, hum, purr, putt, cackle, and kee-kee.
- Adult male turkeys are called toms, and females are called hens. Wild turkey babies are called poults, juvenile males are jakes, and juvenile females are jennies.
- Still curious? Check out thespruce.com for more fun facts.