You Had Me at Gobble, Gobble

In Appreciation of the Beauty and Charm of the Wild Turkey

Reading Time: 3 minutes

With a vibrant spectrum of color-changing mood-ring-like wattles, snoods, and featherless heads resembling tiny unicorns, what’s not to love about the Wild Turkey?

Simply saying their body parts put a smile on your face.

The Wild Turkey is often overlooked as one of our beautiful, charismatic birds. They’re gentle creatures and enjoy socializing with their human companions, forming strong social bonds, showing affection towards one another, and protecting other members of their flock.

Yes, the Wild Turkey is a big game bird, like the quail, pheasant, grouse, bobwhite, and partridge, but being put in this category of birds should not detract from the Wild Turkey’s appeal and beauty.

And don’t be fooled by their size because Wild Turkeys can bolt, comparable to speeds reached by sprinter Usain Bolt during his world-record 100-meter dash in 2009. The Wild Turkey can run as fast as 35 MPH and fly as quickly as 55 MPH. The fastest any human has run is about 27½ MPH.

Wild Turkey mothers communicate with their chicks long before hatching. A nesting turkey hen clucks, whistles, and croons to each chick growing inside the egg.

Iridescent Feathers 

You’re missing out if you’ve never seen a Wild Turkey up close in the sunlight.

From a distance, male turkeys (Toms) are dark-colored with highly iridescent feathers, and females (hens) look dullish brown. But the magic happens when you see these birds up close in sunlight. Hues of bronze, copper, red, green, and gold burst from their feathers.

If you see a Wild Turkey in flight, its chestnut tail feathers framed with a black and white outline are striking. It’s always a joy finding a tail feather on the ground because they’re so easy to identify.

All the World’s a Stage

Males put on quite a display to impress the ladies by puffing their body feathers, raising their tail feathers into a vertical fan, and strutting with their wingtips dragging on the ground.

Of course, a turkey’s persona is not complete without the gobble. Males strut their stuff, gobble to captivate the girls, and warn other Toms to get off their turf.

Gobbles are not the only way turkeys communicate. They make up to 27 calls, including chucks, yelps, and purrs.

Well, you can tell by the way a male Wild Turkey uses his walk he’s a woman’s man, no time to talk. (Wild Turkey version of Stayin’ Alive by the BeeGees)

Spectrum of Colors

Wild Turkeys have a distinct look, unlike other birds. They have featherless heads, like Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures, with a loose flap of skin dangling underneath the chin called a wattle. The birds’ head and throat colors change according to their moods and are often compared to mood rings.

A turkey’s head and throat turn blue when the bird is calm, bright red when stressed, angry, or excited, and a combination of red, white, and blue when the bird is content.

So, what causes the color change? Blood vessels directly under the turkey’s skin. When a turkey’s emotions change, the blood vessels contract, changing how the incoming light scatters and reflects off the turkey’s skin.

One of the Wild Turkey’s enduring characteristics is the bird’s snood.

The snood is a fleshy protuberance sitting atop the turkey’s head. Males and females have snoods, but the male turkey’s snood is much longer hanging over its bill.

Snoods are like the turkey’s head and change color depending on the bird’s mood. The colors become their brightest during mating season or interaction with other males.

We give thanks to these intelligent and inquisitive animals. Wild Turkeys have a playful side, like cats and dogs, complementing their unique personalities.

Wattles, snoods, and color-changing heads are all unique attributes, but these birds had me at gobble, gobble.

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

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