Today is the spring turkey season opener, and before you head out, here are a few facts about wild turkeys that you may not have known. Good luck, gobbler hunters!
- The wild turkey’s bald head can change color in seconds with excitement or emotion. The birds’ heads can be red, (pink) white or blue.
- Wild turkeys sleep in trees. The birds are usually seen walking so many people are surprised they even fly. Though they only fly for short distances, they are speedy and hit about 55 miles per hour when going full tilt.
- A group of turkeys — has many awesome and unusual descriptive nouns, including a “crop”, “dole”, “gang”, “posse”, and “raffle.”
- It is said that the first presidential pardon ever given was by Harry Truman in 1947 and it was given to a turkey. It spurred an annual tradition of allowing two turkeys (one for the Prez and one for the Veep) to be spared each Thanksgiving. In looking into where these spared birds end up, it turns out that some have been taken to Frying Pan Farm Park in northern Virginia and more recently they have gone to Washington’s Mount Vernon. The domesticated birds are not in terrific health so the spared birds usually die of natural causes in a year or so. A domesticated bird weighs 25 or more pounds when fully grown but one bird in the UK was weighed in at 86 pounds (about the size of a large German shepherd). It seems turkeys have particularly weak hearts. A farm near an air station saw their birds drop over when a sonic boom from a passing jet reached them.
- America’s turkeys almost went extinct in 1930 from loss of forest habitat and over hunting. Recovery efforts, including those by NWF and the Wild Turkey Federation, have been successful over the past 80 years and there are now an estimated 7 million wild turkeys in North and Central America.
(Information via blog.nwf.org Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)