Wild turkeys are sensitive and intelligent animals which are very social. They are very affectionate and establish lasting social bonds with each other; rather similar to dogs.
The wild turkey is a large bird which belongs to the order Galliformes that includes chickens. There are six subspecies of wild turkey which are native to North America. Wild turkeys live in Hawaii, Europe, and New Zealand today.
These birds inhabit swamps, grasslands, and forests. The population of the wild turkeys was high and stable until the start of the twentieth century. Habitat destruction and excessive hunting led to dramatic reduction in the number of wild turkeys.
Fortunately, conservation efforts (introduction of existing animals into new habitats and habitat protection) assisted significantly in the recovery of the population. There are approximately seven million wild turkeys in the wild, and they’re no longer on the list of the endangered animals.
There are several things about turkeys which we do not think about, besides the fact that most of them end up on Thanksgiving dinner table. In fact, about fifty million turkeys are killed every year for a holiday.
Wild turkeys can be fun when you consider how incredible and unique these birds are. Although many birders, as well as non-birders, can easily recognize the large tails, distinctive plumage, gobbling call and bare heads of these game birds, how much do you know about them?
Here are some interesting facts about wild turkeys that’ll show you that they’re intelligent animals.
1. In the ancient Mexican cultures, the turkey was a very sacred animal. The Aztecs, Mayans and Toltecs referred to a turkey as the ‘Great Xolotl,’ viewing them as the ‘jewelled birds.’
2. The part of the bare skin on the throat of a turkey and head vary in color based on its level of stress and excitement. When excited, the head of a male turkey turns blue, but when it’s ready to fight it turns red.
3. The droppings of a turkey can be used to determine its gender – females’ poop has letter J shape, and males produce spiral-shaped poop.
4. Benjamin Franklin didn’t propose the turkey as the symbol for America, but he once praised it as being “a much more respectable bird” than a bald eagle.
5. Turkeys have excellent hearing but lack external ears. They have an incredible field of vision of nearly 270 degrees and can see in color.
6. There are about 5,500 feathers on each adult wild turkey, including 18 tail feathers which make up the distinct fan of a male. Most of the feathers are iridescent that gives a turkey its distinctive sheen.
7. The average American eats about 18 pounds of turkey each year and Americans eat more turkeys on Thanksgiving than on Easter and Christmas combined.
8. There are just two kinds of wild turkey; one type is originally from Yucatan peninsula, and the other is from the Mexico and the US.
9. At night, turkeys sleep in trees as a flock. They perch on the tree branches to remain safe from predators, like foxes and coyotes. Once they are awake in the morning, they call out a series of soft yelps right before descending the trees to ensure the others in their roosting group made it through the night well.
10. Turkeys have two stomachs. The first stomach is known as the glandular stomach, where it softens food and broken down by the gastric juices. The food then enters the second stomach of a turkey, the gizzard, where it’s ground against gastroliths.
11. The name “turkey” comes from the nation of Turkey. A few centuries ago, merchants from Ottoman Empire (with its headquarter in Turkey) brought fowls from the Madagascar and traded it with the rest of European countries. Ultimately, the “Turkey Fowl” found its way to the modern world, many people breed it with the native wildfowl for consumption. The name “turkey fowl” was then shortened to “turkey.”