Turkeys are fascinating animals who deserve our protection.
Benjamin Franklin called the turkey a “much more respectable bird,” “a bird of courage,” and “a true original native of America.”
At World Animal Protection, we’re taking time to celebrate turkeys and what makes them unique as animals. Did you know these facts about turkeys?
10 Interesting Facts About Turkeys
1. Both male and female turkeys gobble
Turkeys make a variety of different sounds including “purrs,” “yelps,” and “kee-kees.” Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just male turkeys that gobble. Females gobble too! Male turkeys are called “toms” while females are called “hens.”
2. Wild turkeys can fly
It’s a common myth that turkeys can’t fly (most likely because they feed on the ground), but wild turkeys have been known to fly up to 55 mph in short bursts. For domesticated turkeys, this is unfortunately not the case. They’re bred to be heavier in weight, almost twice as much as a wild turkey.
Turkeys spend most of their time on the ground, but when it’s time to sleep, they fly up into trees. This is because turkeys can’t see well at night, and to protect themselves from predators, they roost at dusk and fly down at dawn.
4. They can change colors
Well, their heads do at least! You can tell a turkey’s emotions by the color of their heads. Colors can change from red to blue to white, depending on how excited or calm they are. The more intense the colors are, the more intense their emotions.
5. Their poop determines if they’re male or female
One certain way to find out if a turkey is male or female is by checking their droppings. A male’s poop will be shaped like the letter J, while the female’s is more spiral-shaped.
6. Benjamin Franklin preferred the turkey to the bald eagle
While Benjamin Franklin did not advocate for the turkey as our National Bird, he did prefer them to bald eagles. In a letter to his daughter, Benjamin Franklin called the bald eagle “a bird of bad moral character” because they steal from other birds. He called the turkey a “much more respectable bird,” “a bird of courage,” and “a true original native of America.”
7. Turkeys can see better than humans
Among the more surprising facts about turkeys is that they have three-times better vision than humans. They can also see in color, and their eyesight covers 270 degrees.
8. Presidential pardons for turkeys started in 1989
It’s widely believed that the first presidential pardon for turkeys started when Abraham Lincoln’s son pleaded that the bird intended for Christmas dinner had a right to live just like any other creature, but it wasn’t until 1989 during George H.W. Bush’s administration that the official pardoning ceremony started.
9. Turkey snoods are for mating
Snoods, the fleshy appendage that extends over a turkey’s beak, is for finding a suitable mate. According to the Journal of Avian Biology, females prefer males with longer snoods, and snood length can also be used to predict the winner of a competition between two males.
10. 46 million turkeys are killed each year for Thanksgiving
That’s about one turkey for every person in Spain. To add, each turkey weighs about 30 pounds on average, which means Americans will consume 1.4 billion pounds of turkey.
Many who are cutting out red meat are turning to turkey—in 2020, US turkey consumption was nearly 16 pounds per capita. But these beautiful animals are highly intelligent, have distinct and playful personalities, and should not endure lives of suffering in the cruel factory farming industry.
If you’re thinking of skipping turkey, we’ve got you covered. Pledge to #EatLessMeat today and we’ll send you easy plant-based tips and recipes through #MeatingHalfway, our 21-day guide to reducing your meat consumption. By choosing to eat less meat and more plant-based protein, we can transform our food system, improve our health, safeguard our planet, and improve the lives of billions of farmed animals (including turkeys!).