People who have spent time with rescued turkeys at our sanctuaries will tell you that they are lively, social, curious creatures. They are known to cluck greetings to visitors entering a barn, eat grass from guests’ hands, and strut around showing off their feathers. Impress your family and friends around the Thanksgiving table with some interesting facts about these incredible birds.
Turkeys form strong social bonds with their family and flock mates. In the wild they sometimes travel in groups of 200 or more. When a turkey is removed from her group, she becomes distressed and calls to her flockmates until she is reunited with them.
Turkeys are very playful animals. Tom Savage, poultry scientist and animal science professor at Oregon State University, observed that if you throw an apple to a group of turkeys, they will play with it together, almost as though it were a football!
Turkeys make a complex range of sounds. When they want to gather their family group, they make an urgent-sounding call. When a turkey is startled, she uses a special “putt,” sound, and every bird in the flock looks up with alarm. Sometimes a mother will use a “cackle” when entering or leaving a roost to prompt her brood to follow. Turkeys even make a cat-like purr when they are feeling relaxed and content.
Nature’s Mood Ring
The color of a turkey’s head and throat will change depending on his mood. When a male turkey is excited, his head will turn blue. When he is feeling stressed, his head will turn bright red. The color shifts and changes many times throughout the day as he feels various levels of stress and relaxation.
John James Audubon, the well-known bird expert and nature enthusiast, observed that, when a mother turkey’s eggs are near to hatching, she will not leave them under any circumstances. Once they’ve hatched, the mother keeps her poults safe under her wings at night until they’re big enough to roost in the trees on their own.
Who Needs GPS?
A wild turkey’s home territory often exceeds 1,000 acres. Turkeys have an incredible knack for remembering locations. They have been known to recall a location they’ve visited only once. They can remember where they found food the year before and will return to the same spot in search of a meal.
Talk about Wingmen…
Male turkey siblings go out courting females together. The siblings display their plumage alongside each other to attract potential mates. Only the dominant brother, however, will mate with interested females.
Want to learn more about turkeys? Visit one of our sanctuaries where you can meet them face-to-face!