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Pick Six: Six Things About Wild Turkeys


Male Wild Turkey showing off. Photograph © Sam Crowe

As a large and tasty game bird, the Wild Turkey was at one time overhunted, and much of its habitat was lost. It became quite rare for a time, but better regulation of hunting, better habitat management, and extensive reintroduction efforts have combined to make the Wild Turkey abundant today, even in areas where it was not historically common.

You may have heard that Benjamin Franklin would have preferred the Wild Turkey to be America’s National Bird instead of the Bald Eagle. But have you heard these Wild Turkey facts?


1. The Wild Turkey is actually named after the country Turkey.

Europeans mistakenly thought the turkeys they saw in America were Guineafowl, which had been imported from Turkey and were called turkey fowl. These days, meat from domesticated turkeys is served around the world.


2. Wild Turkeys are quite a bit different from their domestic cousins

which have been breed for meet production and have lost the ability to fly. Wild Turkeys, on the other had, are pretty good athletes. They can run up to 25 mph (faster than Usain Bolt over a full 100 meters) and fly up to 55 mph, although for relatively short distances.


3. The distinctive wattle on a Wild Turkey serves two purposes.

It is used both to help cool the turkey on hot days and as a display to attract females. The wattle and top of the bare head of the male changes colors depending on its disposition at the time. It can change from red to almost white to blue, depending on its level of excitement, stress or aggressiveness.


4. Jakes & Jennies, Toms & Hens

Young male and female turkeys are called jakes and jennies. Adults are referred to as toms and hens.


5. Group of Turkeys

A group of wild turkeys is called a flock, a group of domesticated turkeys is often referred to as a rafter.

Female wild turkey from the side.

Female Wild Turkey. Photograph © Sam Crowe

6. Range

Wild Turkeys are found in every state except for Alaska and Hawaii. There are an estimated 10 million Wild Turkeys in the U.S.


Bonus: 7:  Turkeys have 5000 to 6000 feathers


About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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