As I prepare to go back home this fall to northern Illinois, my mind inevitably turns towards the gang of wild turkeys that wreaks havoc upon my neighborhood year in and year out. Although it sounds melodramatic, I am not truly home until I am woken up at ungodly hours by the guttural, screeching call-and-response gobbling echoing down the street. It is not fall until I am late for work because a group of them decided to attack my car tires instead of moving out of the road. They wander around the streets and through backyards and over porches with what I believe to be an excessive amount of arrogance to the point where they will not move for cars, people, lawnmowers or anything that one would think would scare away a bird. Even my 150-pound Great Dane refuses to go outside if the gang is nearby. With this in mind, in order to learn more about my neighborhood enemy and the U.S.’s national bird runner-up, I’ve done my research and, it turns out, they’re actually pretty interesting.
A group of turkeys is called a rafter. Females are called jennies when they’re young and hens when they’re older. Males are called jakes when they’re young and gobblers when they’re full grown (only the males make the gobbling sound).
Turkeys have amazing senses. They can hear things up to a mile away, see in color, and have three times better vision than humans.
They can fly up to 50 miles per hour in short bursts and run up to 25 miles per hour. They also have a wingspan of about six feet.
The largest wild turkey found weighed 37 pounds.
There are six subspecies of wild turkeys in the United States, though all of them were almost hunted to extinction in the early 1900s.
All turkeys sleep in trees with their rafter, and call to each other in the morning to make sure the whole group made it through the night before heading to the ground for the day.
People who study turkeys categorize their sounds as either “gobbles,” “purrs,” “yelps,” or “kee-kees.”
Turkeys have two stomachs and will eat small lizards and sometimes even baby rodents.
If their droppings are a “J” shaped, the turkey is female. If they are a spiral shaped, the turkey is male.
The dangly, red appendage on their face is called a “snood.” Both males and females have snoods, but the bigger the snood a male has, the more likely the female turkey will want to mate with it.
Turkeys can blush! The skin on their head and neck, including the snood, turns a much brighter shade of red when they’re scared, agitated or ready to mate.
Baby turkeys are called “poults” and leave the nest usually only a week or so after hatching.
June is National Turkey Lovers’ Month!
So, not only is turkey healthy and delicious, but they are also some pretty fascinating fowl. Before you dive into your annual Thanksgiving turkey this year, give yourself a pat on the back for knowing more about your food. Lastly, I will leave you with a joke. “I’ve been meaning to cut back on thanksgiving leftovers this year, but I can’t quit cold turkey.”