Giving Thanks for the Wild Turkey

Fascinating Facts About One of Our Most Interesting Birds

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Turkeys are the undisputed star of Thanksgiving, so we’re celebrating our gratitude for them with a few fascinating facts about these beautiful birds.

Bet you didn’t know that Wild Turkeys have been described as one of the most interesting birds indigenous to the U.S?

So rather than reflecting on how delicious turkey pairs with your Aunt’s famous cranberry sauce, here’s an idea.

Let’s appreciate these fantastic birds for being the intelligent, sensitive, and social animals they are, much like your family pet cat or dog.

Here are 11 fascinating facts you probably didn’t know about turkeys. And after you read them, we think you’ll agree.

1 – Male turkeys look like unicorns

Yes, that’s right, turkeys resemble these Mythical winged creatures, and here’s why.

Young turkeys have a piece of flesh that sits on their forehead like a unicorn horn in a resting position. As the males mature sexually, their snoods elongate, and their size increases with age.

When turkeys strut, the snood elongates, and when they are at rest, it shrinks. But in older males, the snood is often at full length, so it’s hard to see it at rest.

The snood also changes colors. The resting color of the snood varies by breed, but they usually range from pinkish to red. If a turkey struts for a long period, the snood gets darker red.

Snoods are the key to attracting the ladies.

Hens supposedly favor males with long snoods because it’s the turkey equivalent of masculinity and is associated with good health. So when two males compete for a female’s attention, the dude with the longer snood is usually the winner.

Giving Thanks for the Wild Turkey
This handsome “unicorn” is named Niblet and he was raised as a hatchling by wildlife rehabilitator Christine Peyreigne of Christine’s Critters

2 – Their heads are like patriotic mood rings

A turkey’s bald head and throat will change to blue when calm, bright red when stressed or angry, or a mixture of red, white, and blue when content.

The colors are caused by the blood vessels directly under the skin. When the bird’s emotions change, the blood vessels contract. This changes the way the incoming light scatters and reflects off the turkey’s skin, causing it to appear red, white, or blue.

3 – For Male turkeys, it’s beard on!

The beard is always present in male turkeys, but some males boast not just one but two beards, with the number sometimes going up to a whopping eight beards!

Hey human fellas, imagine manicuring eight beards!

The bird’s beard is composed of specialized feathers called filoplumes. The bird’s beard grows with age, and female turkeys may use it to indicate good health and longevity.

4 – They eat rocks for good digestion and have two stomachs

Turkeys don’t have teeth and can’t chew their food to help with digestion. So instead, they go the natural route and swallow pebbles or small rocks stored in the gizzard.

Food is softened and broken down by gastric juices in their glandular stomach. It then enters the bird’s second stomach, the gizzard, where the food dissolves by grinding it against the stones.

wild turkeys are social animals
Wild Turkeys are intelligent, sensitive, and social animals much like your family pet cat or dog

5 -Turkeys are fast

Watch out Trayvon Bromell, the world’s fastest human in 2021. Wild turkeys can run as fast as 35 miles an hour (about the same as a human track star) and fly as fast as 55 miles an hour.

6 – They can get down and bust a groove

Turkeys enjoy listening to music and singing loudly along.

7 – Turkeys have eyes in the back of their head

These birds have incredible peripheral vision. With their heads stationary, turkeys can see a field of view about 300 degrees, compared to our 180-degree field of view. And they see three times more clearly than you do.

8 – Who needs a shower when a pile of dust will do

Turkeys like to look their best, and a dust bath is part of the bird’s preening and plumage maintenance that keeps their feathers in top condition.

9 – Turkeys have BFFs too!

Turkeys remember your face, and they will sit closer to you with each day you revisit. So if you return day after day, before long, a few birds will pick you out as their favorite and come running up to you whenever you arrive.

The birds choose you rather than you choosing the birds.

Giving Thanks for the Wild Turkey
Niblet, a handsome male turkey, shows his human Christine Peyreigne great love and affection, just like a dog or cat. He’s very protective of his human and gets jealous when others give her attention. And their bond is unbreakable

10 – They purr

Turkeys make a soft, rolling call when they’re content. It is a low vocal communication you hear from feeding birds who want to maintain contact with one another.

11 – Turkeys do a roll call in the am

Turkeys are arboreal, meaning they like to sleep in trees with their extended family flocks to keep everyone safe from predators. Then, when they start to wake up in the morning, one bird will call out a series of soft yelps to make sure that the rest of the group is OK since they haven’t spoken to one another for a while.

Just like humans, when we wake up and convene at the kitchen table for breakfast and talk about the day ahead.

And now you know why turkeys are one of our most fascinating birds.

IntoBirds wishes everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble Gobble!

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