Brooke Biddlecombe, Animal Place
...why you should stop eating them...
Turkeys have many calls that convey different things. They have calls of warnings and unique calls for different predators. Turkeys purr and coo when they’re eating, and use threatening purrs telling you to get your butt out of there. Mother hens use a special whistle when baby birds get lost. Calls are used to say “Here I am, where are you?”, and the boys gobble to attract the ladies. This is a sample of the different kinds of turkey talk. Their language is complex and chances are, you’re never going to know quite what they’re chatting about.
Turkeys see better than you!
Turkeys can see 270 degrees visual field (humans barely reach 180). Turkeys can see more color wavelengths than humans, even seeing ultraviolet light waves! If you notice a turkey giving you a once over, chances are he’s seeing a lot more than you ever have.
Turkeys have beards!
All males and 25-30% of female turkeys have beards. A turkey’s beard grows out of their chest – the beard is actually a modified feather but feels bristly and looks different than other feathers. Not much is known about the beard – it grows with age, so researchers speculate it has to do with attracting females. The longer the beard the tougher the tom when it comes to turkeys. So, if you love a man with a long beard, you have more in common with a turkey than you thought!
Turkeys’ heads are living mood rings!
Turkeys can alter the bloodflow to their head and neck - the different colors reflect different moods! When relaxed, their heads are a pale red, when they get distressed or depressed their heads will turn blue, then white. When they are angry, their heads will turn red…but that can also mean they’re feeling really good (especially true if paired with a puffed up tail and strutting about). When the toms are trying to attract the hens their faces will be brightly colored, what better way to get attention right?
Turkeys have snoods!
What is a snood you ask? It’s that little fleshy bit you will often see hanging down over a turkey’s beak (some farms snip off snoods, leaving birds permanently mutilated). When a turkey is calm the snood is relaxed, small and sticking up. When a turkey is courting or trying to impress someone his snood elongates and becomes brightly colored. Female turkeys love longer snoods - the longer the snood, the more desirable the tom. But the males do have to be careful with their snoods. When fighting, they often grab each other’s snoods. It is a point of easy contact, hanging right there in the middle of their faces.
Turkeys love cuddles!
Many socialized turkeys love butt scratches and belly rubs. Some love being “preened” around their chest and beneath their wings. Due to their large size, these are areas they can’t easily access on their own…a little help from a friend never hurt! Next time you’re hanging out with a turkey, take some time to figure where they love cuddles the most and you’ll have a friend for life.
And this is the short list on turkey awesomeness. Learn more about turkeys on one of our tours. Or watch one of our videos - Find out what turkeys do in the rain, how adorable turkey babies are exploring their new digs, and how one person made a difference for Jude the turkey. We hope all of this inspires you to help turkeys by simply not eating them!
Brooke is an advocacy intern for Animal Place sanctuary.