It’s almost Thanksgiving and turkeys are the stars of the show! Here are 20 turkey facts to gobble up:
- Only male turkeys gobble – Turkeys make a lot of different sounds – purrs, yelps, kee-kees – but the iconic gobble is exclusive to the males, and they use it to attract mates. This sound also gives them their nickname.
- Male turkeys are called “gobblers” or toms” – Adult female turkeys are “hens”. Juvenile males are called “jakes”, while juvenile females are known as “jennys”.
- Wild turkeys can fly – Domestic turkeys (the turkeys raised on a farm and bought in a store) cannot fly, but turkeys found in the wild can fly. Domestic turkeys weigh much more than wild turkeys, and this inhibits their flying ability.
- Wild turkeys sleep in trees – To avoid predators, wild turkeys fly up into trees to sleep.
- They can change colors – Their heads are like mood rings! You can tell a turkey’s emotional state by the color of their heads. Their color can change from red to blue to white. The more intense the colors are, the more intense their emotions.
- Their poop reflects their gender – It’s true, female droppings are more spiral-shaped, while male droppings are shaped like the letter J.
- Turkeys can see better than humans – Hunters don’t love this fact, but turkeys are said to have three times better vision than humans. They have a field of vision of about 270 degrees and can see in color.
- Turkeys have great hearing – Not only can they see better than humans, they also can hear better than us. They have acute hearing and can hear sounds from far distances. They can also pinpoint the exact location of the sound’s source.
- Turkey snoods are for mating – The fleshy piece that extends over their beaks is associated with the health of the male turkey. Hens prefer longer snoods and snood length can be used to predict the winner of a competition between the gobblers.
- Turkeys use stones for digestion – Much like various dinosaurs, turkeys also swallowed stones to aid their digestion. Turkeys have two stomachs – the gastric stomach and the gizzard.
- The wild turkeys almost went extinct, twice – About 10,000 years ago, the California turkey went extinct due to climate change and overhunting. Again, when European settlers came to America, hunting almost caused their extinction.
- Adult gobblers can weigh 16 to 22 pounds on average, hens weigh around 8 to 12 pounds – Males also have beards and spurs, but women do not. They both have a snood, wattle, and a few feathers on their head.
- Wild turkeys can run at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour – They can fly as fast as 55 miles per hour.
- A group of related male turkeys will band together to court females, though only one member of the group gets to mate – Talk about great wingmen! Brother turkeys will engage in cooperative courtship if it means a continuation of the family line.
- Baby turkeys are called “poults” – Hens will lay about 10 to 12 eggs, one per day over a two-week period. The eggs incubate for a little under a month before hatching.
- Poults eat berries, seeds, and insects – The adults have a more diverse diet including acorns and small reptiles.
- An adult turkey has around 5,000 to 6,000 feathers – Pueblo turkeys were raised for their feathers, which were used in ceremonies, rituals, and textiles.
- Turkeys were once worshipped like gods – In Mayan religion and culture, turkeys represented power and were only owned by the rich.
- Ben Franklin liked turkeys much more than bald eagles – He praised them for being a “much more respectable bird” than the bird chosen to be the national emblem of the United States.
- There are five distinct subspecies of wild turkeys – Eastern, Osceola, Rio Grande, Merriam’s, and Goulds
Plus, a few Thanksgiving Facts:
- We eat almost 50 million turkeys each Thanksgiving – Around 88% of Americans choose to have Turkey as their main course, which leads to about 46 million turkeys being eaten each Thanksgiving.
- The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 – It took place over a three-day harvest festival, and turkey wasn’t even served!
- Abraham Lincoln named Thanksgiving a national holiday on October 3, 1863 – This proclamation came after Sarah Josepha Hale petitioned Congress and five different presidents to create the national annual holiday.
- Harry Truman was the first president to receive a ceremonial turkey from the National Turkey Federation and have it for dinner – John F. Kennedy was the first to let a Thanksgiving Turkey go. Richard Nixon gave his turkey to a petting zoo. In 1989, George H.W. Bush formalized the turkey pardoning tradition.
- 40 million green bean casseroles are made each year – 50 million pumpkin pies are eaten each Thanksgiving, 250 million pounds of potatoes are bought for Thanksgiving, and almost 8 Olympic pools could be filled by jellied cranberries.
- Farm Country has the best turkeys – okay, so maybe not a fact, you’ll just have to come visit and see for yourself!