Turkey Trivia

Facts about the Turkey—the all-American bird!

October 28, 2019
Wild Turkey Tom
Pixabay

It’s time for turkey trivia! Can turkeys fly? What’s a baby turkey called? Impress your Thanksgiving guests with these turkey facts!

Turkey Trivia

Are Turkeys Native to the Americas?

Yes, turkeys originated in the “New World.” Specifically, wild turkeys are native to Mexico. It’s a funny history. European explorers brought back wild turkeys in the early 1500s. They were domesticated in Europe and later brought to North America by English colonists. Note that the domesticated turkeys have white-tipped tails; wild turkeys have dark-tipped tails.

Why Do Turkeys Gobble?
Only male turkeys, or toms, can make a call known as a “gobble,” and they mostly do it in the spring and fall. It is a mating call and attracts the hens. Wild turkeys gobble at loud sounds and when they settle in for the night. The wild turkey can make at least 30 different calls!

Could the Turkey Have Been the National Bird?
Ben Franklin thought the turkey would be a better national symbol than the bald eagle. According to the Franklin Institute, he wrote in a letter to his daughter:

“For my own part, I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country; he is a bird of bad moral character; he does not get his living honestly…like those among men who live by sharping and robbing…he is generally poor, and often very lousy. Besides, he is a rank coward; the little king-bird, not bigger than a sparrow, attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district…For in truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America. Eagles have been found in all countries, but the turkey was peculiar to ours…”

How Much Turkey Does a Person Eat per Year?
The average person in the United States will eat 15 pounds of turkey this year.

What’s That Weird Wobbly Thing on a Turkey’s Neck?
The loose red skin attached to the underside of a turkey’s beak is called a wattle. When the male turkey is excited, especially during mating season, the wattle turns a scarlet red. The fleshy flap of skin that hangs over the gobbler’s beak is called a snood and also turns bright red when the bird is excited. The wobbly little thing on the turkey’s chest is the turkey’s beard and is made up of keratin bristles. Keratin is the same substance that forms hair and horns on other animals.

Is the Turkey Considered a Game Bird?
The wild turkey is one of the more difficult game birds to hunt. It won’t be flushed out of the brush with a dog. Instead, hunters must try to attract it with different calls. Even with two seasons a year, only one in six hunters will get a wild turkey.

By the 1930s, almost all of the wild turkeys in the U.S. had been hunted. Today, thanks to conservation programs, there are plenty of wild turkeys—they even invade cities, occasionally!

Are Turkeys Named After the Turkey, the Country?
When Europeans first encountered the wild turkey in Mexico, they incorrectly classified the bird as a type of guinea fowl called a turkey fowl. 

It was Turkish traders who originally sold guinea fowl from Africa to European markets; Turkey has no native turkeys!

What is a Baby Turkey Called? And What About Adult Turkeys?
A baby turkey is called a poult, chick, or even turklette. An adult male turkey is called a tom and a female is a hen.

How Big Do Turkeys Get?
The domestic tom can weigh up to 50 pounds, the domestic hen up to 16 pounds. The wild tom can weigh up to 20 pounds, the wild hen up to 12 pounds.

Can Turkeys Fly?
The wild turkey can fly! (It does, however, prefer to walk or run.) The domestic turkey is not an agile flyer, though the bird will perch in trees to stay safe from predators.

How Long do Turkeys Live?

The average life span of a wild turkey is three or four years. It generally feeds on seeds, nuts, insects, and berries. The average life span of a domestic turkey, from birth to freezer, is 26 weeks. During this period of time, it will eat about 75 pounds of turkey feed.
 

What’s your favorite turkey fact? Let us know in the comments!

Learn More

Turkeys are, of course, best known for being the main course at Thanksgiving. Learn how to cook a turkey and see our favorite Thanksgiving recipes!

720x480-gardening.jpg

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Turkey facts

My favorite turkey memory is the WKRP episode when the radio station dropped turkeys from the traffic helicopter. And Gordon Jump (Mr Carlson) kept saying "I thought turkeys could fly."

Turkey memories

We too raised turkeys and they are just that stupid. We put marbles in their feed trough to get them to peck or they never figured out how to eat.

Turkey

A group of turkeys are called a rafter

Move 'em out!

Turkeys used to be literally driven to market, just like cattle! Huge droves of them, with feet tarred to protect them, took the road. Usually one man would go ahead scattering corn, and the birds would follow as long as they were hungry. A great threat was rain. Domestic turkeys are abysmally stupid, and they'd just stare up at the sky with their beaks open and drown where they stood! You had to get them under a tarpaulin or some other kind of shelter. Turkey drives continued through the 19th C.; Walt Disney even made a TV movie about one, starring Darren McGavin as a wandering rogue who gets involved with a widow, her son, and their gobblers.

Talking Turkey

I think a baby turkey should be called a goblet...

Talking Turkey

I think a baby turkey should be called a goblet...

Turkey

We've had wild turkeys in our back yard several times. They love the bird seed that falls from the feeders. During the really cold days, they would often sit or sleep next to the basement wall for warmth. Delightful to watch them.

Turkeys

When I was a little girl, we raised turkeys. Our female turkeys gobbled, not just the males. The new babies are called chicks. When they get a few weeks old they are called poulets. If you buy a fresh turkey from a farm, they are very flavorful. When you buy frozen meat of any kind, the freezer takes some of the flavor out of it.

wild turkey

I had what I deemed my personal backyard flock a few ears ago. My cat Henri found out that they are the closest living thing to a Velociraptor.
I learned how to "talk turkey" while watching a hunting show. I'd call the hens in for sunflower seeds. Much to the annoyance of the Tom. I was amused that they leave corkscrew shaped droppings.

Wild Turkeys

My father was a hunter, therefore I grew up eating a lot of wild game. The best turkey I have ever eaten was a wild turkey my father shot in Arkansas back in the 70's. It had far more flavor than a store bought turkey. That was the only time I can truthfully say I liked turkey. Otherwise, I never buy it or eat it.

comment

it very nice to eat have a roast or sosuge fine recipes

Wild Turkey

Turkeys were numerous in Massachusetts in oak and chestnut forests.  Between 1711-1717, they sold at market for 1 shilling 4 pence, but by 1820 the birds had greatly declined and the price had increased 10 fold. The last turkey was killed in Massachusetts in 1821.

We are lucky the Wild Turkey was able to survive; replicate; and keep the species going!!;

Bronzed Beauty

What a magnificent bird the wild turkey is -- just beautiful! So glad their numbers are back up.

Turkey

I am a Native New Yorker and grew up with many turkeys in NYC. Some are even friends!!

Turkey Wattle

I knew they had them, mom told me years ago, what learned was why & how it gets so pretty & red.

Interesting! I hope that

Interesting! I hope that everyone's weekend was both great and safe,enjoyed the recent holiday(s?) that we've had,having a good week and has another good weekend.