Toms, Hens, Flying and Running

Wild Turkey_Oak MeadowA few more turkey facts as you prepare for your holiday…

The wild turkey is native only to the North American continent.  The eastern wild turkey is what lives in PA.

Gobblers or toms, are the adult males.  They stand 2½ to 3 feet tall, are 3 to 4 feet long and average 16 pounds. They have spurs on the backs of their legs.  These sharp bony protrusions are used in fighting.  Gobblers also have rough, black “beards.” These hair-like feathers called mesofiloplumes, protrude from their breasts. These beards grow quickly for their first few years, then more slowly. The ends may break off, though, so beard length isn’t a reliable indicator of age.

Hens, or the females, are about one-third shorter and weigh about 9 to 10 pounds.  Usually, hens have neither spurs nor beards.

Turkeys are estimated to fly 40 to 55 mph.  They can cover more than a mile while airborne.  PA’s many waterways aren’t an obstacle.  A turkey can swim too. But turkeys usually rely on their feet to escape danger. The strides of chased gobblers have been measured at 4 feet and their top running speeds are estimated at 18 mph.

Cornell’s Ornithology Lab has some sound bites and videos if you want to hear the tell-tale gobble or see a turkey “in action.”