Turkey Definition | Characteristics & Facts



Turkey Definition

The turkey bird, commonly referred to as a turkey, is a large bird native to North America. Turkeys are known for their distinctive appearance, including a featherless head and neck, wattles (fleshy protuberances) hanging from the neck, and a fleshy growth called a snood that hangs over the beak. They have long, strong legs and large, rounded bodies.

Turkey General Characteristics & Facts

  • Turkeys are large birds native to North America and are known for their distinctive appearance, including a featherless head and neck, wattles, and a fleshy growth called a snood.
  • Male turkeys, called toms or gobblers, have vibrant plumage with iridescent feathers and fan-shaped tail feathers used for courtship displays.
  • Turkeys are primarily ground-dwelling birds but can fly short distances.
  • They are omnivorous, feeding on a diet that includes seeds, fruits, insects, and small vertebrates.
  • Turkeys communicate through various vocalizations, including the famous gobbling sound made by males during the breeding season.
  • They have cultural significance, particularly in the United States, where they are associated with Thanksgiving celebrations.
  • Turkeys are raised for their meat, known as turkey, which is consumed widely as a culinary staple during festive occasions.

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  • Size: Turkeys are large birds, with adult males (toms) being larger than females (hens). On average, wild turkeys can measure about 3-4 feet (0.9-1.2 meters) in length and have a wingspan of around 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 meters).
  • Plumage: Wild turkeys have dark feathers with a bronze iridescent sheen. Males have more vibrant plumage, including iridescent feathers of copper, green, and bronze colors. They have a fan-shaped tail with long, colorful feathers that are spread during courtship displays.
  • Head and Neck: Male turkeys have a bare, warty head adorned with fleshy growths called caruncles. They also have a long, fleshy, and flexible appendage called a snood that hangs from the forehead. The wattle, another fleshy growth, hangs from the throat. Females have smaller and less prominent caruncles, snoods, and wattles.
  • Body Shape: Turkeys have robust and compact body with a round breast. They have long neck that is more visible in males during courtship displays. Their wings are rounded and powerful, allowing for short bursts of flight.
  • Legs and Feet: Turkeys have strong and muscular legs adapted for ground-dwelling. The feet of a turkey have 3 toes pointing forward and 1 toe pointing backward. The feet have rough scales on the lower legs and feet for traction and protection.
  • Sexual Dimorphism: Male and female turkeys display sexual dimorphism. Males have more elaborate and colorful plumage, larger caruncles, longer snood, and larger size compared to females. Females have more subdued plumage and smaller head adornments.
  • Overall Appearance: Turkeys have a distinct appearance with their large bodies, fan-shaped tail feathers, and characteristic head and neck features. Their colors and patterns help provide camouflage and attract mates during courtship displays.

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Key Locations of  Turkeys

  • United States
  • Mexico
  • Canada
  • Central America
  • South America
  • Europe
  • New Zealand
  • Australia

Turkey Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Galliformes

Family: Meleagrididae

Genus: Meleagris

Species: Meleagris gallopavo

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