It Thanksgiving season!! Do I even have to say how much I love Thanksgiving, Defenders?!?! I am not sure if it is the family gatherings, the food, or the TURKEYS!!! You would be surprised how many people eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day, but have never seen a live turkey in person before! Everyone has seen the all white, farmed turkeys in a picture before and in certain places there are wild turkeys, but out here is Los Angeles, CA turkeys are not a common animal, so hardly anyone has actually seen them in person. This is quite embarrassing for us Angelenos. One would think that more people would know what a Turkey looks like. In fact, wild species of turkeys like the Osceola Turkey and the Wild Turkey are super beautiful game birds. The males are quite interesting to look at and when trying to impress a female or scare away predators, they fan out their incredible tail feathers and body feathers and put on an impressive show. This is easily the most memorable thing about seeing a turkey. Our educational turkey here at Critter Squad Wildlife Defenders is named Tom and every once in a while you will catch him with his feathers spread- sending out a loud call to other potential birds in the area. We all know the noise, "Gobble gobble gobble...gobble gobble gobble!"
Turkeys deserve far more respect then they are given for their impressive feathers and awesome calls. Turkeys are actually quite inquisitive and intelligent. After spending significant time with Tom, I have been able to see first hand the intelligence of the Turkey. Tom and other turkeys are incredible visual and always on alert, they are able to notice things like a tiny sparrow zooming by or a meal worm on the ground 15 ft away. This allows them to search for food in optimal ways and with very accurate precision. They are always watching out for safety, they know the best times to forage for their food, start to roost and places to stay safe for the night. If we changed Tom's routine even slightly he would know and express his discomfort to his keepers. I know it may sound crazy defenders, but we can totally tell when Tom is nervous, excited, and even feeling confident. Tom and other turkeys are able to communicate this through their noises, for example, when turkeys find yummy food their will make excited speaks that help notify other turkeys in the flock. Turkeys can see colors and we can use colors to help the turkey distinguish its favorite foods or respond to training and enrichment. I have seen Tom analyze tools in my hand for working, new places he has traveled to and he even sizes up new people he has never met before.
So in my opinion one of the coolest features of the turkey is their HUGE feet. A turkey's feet is the epitome of prehistoric looking. Their feet are covered in scales, just like a reptile, which act like little shields and help prevent injuries during searching for food, digging, and fighting other turkeys. They are also equipped with three sizable toes that can reach over 3-4 inches long! On the back of the foot you will find the Hallux which is essentially a 4th toe that helps with balance and can also aid in fighting. Turkeys even have spurs on the back of their legs. "What are spurs," you ask? Spurs are these long semi-curved talons, or nails, on the back of the turkey's leg which are directly used for fighting and gaining dominance in the flock. If you haven't gotten the picture yet, turkeys have clearly stolen their feet from a dinosaur!
Do Turkeys Shave Their Beards?
Did you know that Turkey's also have a beard? Yes, a normal beard, however it doesn't grow out of their faces like us humans. The beard grows directly out of their chest feathers. The beard is made up of thin modified feathers that stick out like bristles on a brush. They are rough, rigid and only found on males. It is said that the turkey beard can indicate how old the animal is, usually found to be larger on older more dominate males. However, external factors like the quality of life or interactions with other turkeys can cause unwanted damage to the beards.
Well Defenders, this article was supposed to be about the Osceola Turkey, which is a wild species of turkey from Florida, but it ended up becoming about how cool looking a turkey really is. If you wanted to learn more direct facts about the Osceola Turkey then head over to the fact sheet page in the kids zone. Like normal we have some amazing turkey activities, like a quiz and a coloring page in the kids zone as well! We hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving and make sure to teach others how amazing the turkey is before you enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner.