One of the most interestingly majestic birds indigenous to America, Turkeys are an incredibly unique creation of nature.
Quite easily recognizable by their uncustomary built, unique plumage, the flappy hangings on the face, not to forget the spectacular fan of feathers that make up the tail, there’s a lot more to explore about these incredulous species.
Many of us simply associate Turkeys with the mouthwatering treats of Thanksgiving dinner. These intelligent birds, often found wandering around in large groups, echo the land with their loud gobbles, flashing their astounding appearance are phenomenally unique in the world of birds.
A group of turkeys can be simply called a flock, brood, gang but they have been designated the term ‘Rafter’ due to the behavior of the bird. From its facial appendages and bare head to its ability to fly and ingest stones and even change color with its emotions, Turkeys are widely hunted and domesticated.
Given the many collective names that we use for an array of species, this leaves us wondering what a group of Turkeys is called?
Is it called a flock, a murder, a gobble, a dule or maybe a gang? After all, which is the right term?
Interestingly, a group of Turkeys is referred to as a Rafter. So, the next time you see a group of Turkeys, you know that it is a rafter!
Despite having a peculiar name, a collection of turkeys is often referred to with numerous other terms, making the rafter to be an educated terminology among the others.
Rafter is more of a sophisticated word used to refer to a group of turkeys, regardless of the size. Rafters is commonly used among poultry breeders, but many common citizens still seem to be unaware of the term. Typically, it is preferred for a collection of domestic turkeys that are commercially raised.
Always strutting together, forming massive groups amongst themselves, turkeys are often referred to as a gang, since they resemble the practice of gangsters, making large inseparable groups on the ground, notorious actions and no fear of humans.
A widespread word used for numerous birds as well as a number of animals. Since the longest times, Flock has been used to refer to a number of birds flying together, or foraging, perching or roosting together.
It cannot be claimed as wrong in the case of Turkeys, though a more specific word has been attributed to these majestic creatures.
Now that we know that a group of turkeys is called a rafter, but how many Turkeys make up a certifiable rafter?
Whether there are two turkeys or forty of them found together, they always make up a rafter.
Among the many names, why do we refer to Turkeys as a rafter? After considerable contemplation, a few plausible explanations were discovered for the peculiar name of the species.
In the earlier times, during the construction of buildings, flocks of turkeys would often seek shelter in the rafters of the semi constructed structures and barns. These sites served as ideal roosting places providing shelter and warmth, as well as security against predators.
Some accounts suggest that it is due this reason that turkeys are referred to as Rafters.
Typically, you’ll catch a sight of wild turkeys trotting together in massive groups, swaggering around in the woods and grasslands. These gregarious turkeys are hardly observed in isolation, appearing to be stitched or woven together in a cluster from afar.
Emerging from the Greek word ‘rhaptein’ which is translated to the meaning of ‘stitch together’ in English, the turkeys get their exclusive title of rafters from here.
According to some other sources, the word ‘rafter’ stems from the fleeing behavior of the Turkeys which makes up a weave and stitch like pattern.
If you’ve ever observed or chased turkeys, you might have noticed how they flee in a crisscross, interweaving path, dissipating their movements across the woods to confuse their predators or hunters to capture them.
DID YOU KNOW?
Another updated meaning of the term rafter is a 'compilation of beams.'
Wondering what baby turkeys are called? Groups of these tiny little species are called poults or chicks. Even though the word poults is still not quite prevalent, many people still refer to them as chicks.
As the young of these birds grow up to become juveniles, they attain their names based on their gender. Female juveniles are jennies which grow up to become hens, while juvenile males are Jakes which turn into mature Toms.
If you’re curious to read about the mind-boggling facts about Turkeys, keep reading!
You’ll be even more impressed by the majestic bird.
The majestic turkey is known to exhibit almost 20 different vocalizations, such as purrs, yelps and kees kees. In fact, each individual turkey has a distinct voice, making it easy for the birds to recognize one another through their unique calls.
The calls of Turkeys are known as gobbles, with the calls being so sonorous that they can be heard as far as a mile away. It is primarily the Male turkeys who typically use their loud calls to communicate with the female hens far away. These calls by the males - or gobblers - are much more frequent during the mating season.
Only the Males of the Turkeys Gobble.
The hens don’t gobble back to their male peers. Rather, they just make their chirps and clicks sounds.
The roaring vocalizations of the turkeys also serve as warnings for the other males, as they compete amongst one another, informing them about the already occupied territory.
Similar to most birds, the male Turkeys are superior in flamboyance than the females.
Much larger than the females - also called hens - the males are identified by their large fan shaped tails, fleshy red appendages surrounding the beak and a darkish blotched plumage flashing subtle hues of bronze, green, red and gold sheen with white barred wings.
They have bald, bare skinned heads, which may be bright blue or red in color.
The males use their snoods to allure the females. Female turkeys prefer to mate with males with a longer snood. Some research suggests that snood length is linked to the health of the turkey.
The dense, iridescent plumage of the Turkey, chromed with a range of shades is made up of approximately 5500 feathers.
In contrast to the males, females have a rather drab appearance, with a brownish-grey plumage and a feathered head. This helps them to camouflage better in the nests and remain hidden from the sight of predators.
DID YOU KNOW?
The conspicuous fan-shaped tail of the male Turkey comprises 18 voluminous feathers.
Quite gregarious in nature, turkeys are usually found in groups or rafters. Showing affection towards one another, they mingle well with their fellow turkeys and form lasting social bonds. Very rarely would you find a turkey on its own.
Evidences reveal that when isolated from its peers, a Turkey becomes quite despondent and depressed, explaining its convivial nature.
Have you ever contemplated if turkeys can fly? Or have you ever seen a Turkey soaring in the sky during your birding experience?
Turkeys are one of the few birds in the bird Kingdom whose flying capacities are doubted. Even though Turkeys generally forage on the ground, and their large and strange appearance often befuddles the mind if they can reach the sky, these birds can fly.
Wild Turkeys are capable of flying, reaching the maximum speed of 55 mph. Unlike most bird species that are professional aerialists, turkeys fly with short bursts, constantly flapping their wings, covering a distance of no more than 100 yards.
Wild turkeys are among the five largest flying birds in the world.
Domestic turkeys, however, cannot fly. Since these turkeys are specifically raised for the purpose of human consumption, they are bred to be heavier and plump birds.
These domestic turkeys are almost double the weight of their wild cousins, which makes it challenging, in fact, impossible for them to successfully take flight. The focus is to fatten them up to make an ambrosial meal at the dinner table.
DID YOU KNOW?
Turkeys have very strong legs and can run at phenomenal speeds of 25 mph.
Turkeys have an incredibly profound visual acuity and wide field of vision. Their vision is known to be thrice that of humans, with their eyesight covering a spectrum of 270°. This makes the bird a challenging hunt!
Their superior color vision enables them to detect the UV light as well.
However, their eyesight changes with the setting of the sun. Turkeys tend to lose their vision at night, making it difficult for them to detect their predators. They become excessively cautious in the dark. To protect themselves, they would proceed to their roosting sites at dusk.
Turkey Toms not only have a conspicuous plumage to attract their mates, but they have another enticing feature that enables them to change the colors of their heads.
Male turkeys are usually bald, having almost no feathers on their heads. Their facial features are quite distinct, with dangly appendages hanging around.
The Turkeys have a fleshy piece hanging from the forehead to the beak, known as a snood. Another flap of skin that hangs down from the chin is called the wattle.
These fleshy appendages along with the head switch colors according to the mood of the Turkey. The emotions, feelings and excitement of the Turkey can be depicted by the color of its head and flappy hangings, ranging from red, pink, white and blue.
How to distinguish between the male and female Turkey? You’d be beyond startled to know that Turkey poop is a prominent indicator to reveal the gender of the bird.
The Tom excretes long and skinny, J-shaped feaces while the hen’s feaces are coiled little clumps.
What causes such noticeable differences in the excrements of the Turkeys? It is due to the peculiar bowel movements and differences in the size of the cloaca which create a sex specific poop pattern.
Encountering a Turkey may not be as pleasant as you might have thought!
Turkeys are typically aggressive birds that not only exhibit their hostility towards fellow mates, but are also known to attack and dominate humans and other animals.
When fighting amongst themselves, they would peck each other with their pointed beaks, pulling the snoods. This can sometimes turn into a deleterious combat, resulting in bleeding and further injuries.
These turkeys adopt the same harsh attitude towards humans and other species around, specifically during the breeding season. Considering them subordinates, they would chase and peck other species with their beaks.
Do not look directly into the eyes of a Turkey or you might instigate it for an attack!
However, towns official where Turkeys are a prevalent bird, such as Brookline, now recommend the public to fight off the Turkeys rather than backing off or being frightened.
You may scare them away by making noises, clanging pots, popping an umbrella, yelling, spurting them with a hose or even leaving your dogs to bark at them.
Among the many other birds including the grouse, chickens and peasants, Turkeys also fall under the order of heavy ground feeding birds.
The major proportion of their diet comprises of grass and grains, but Turkeys are omnivore organisms that feed on an assortment of treats including insects, reptiles, nuts, berries, foliage and vegetables scraps.
However, since domestic turkeys are raised to be consumed by humans, the aim is to make them husky. Therefore, they are fed specific food grains enriched with optimal nutrients.
It is for this reason that domesticated turkeys have a relatively short lifespan of only a few months, unlike their wild cousins that survive for around 3 to 5 years on average. As soon as they reach an optimal size, they are slaughtered for commercial purposes.
If you’re rearing the enchanting birds in your farm, make sure you give them the right nutrients needed for optimal growth. Explore the Bearded Hen - Wild Turkey Scratch Feed Supplement for Turkeys.
Once amongst the ubiquitous birds in the region, wandering around the entire continent, the early 20th century witnessed a stark drop in the population of wild turkeys.
Factors such as overhunting, deforestation and destruction of their habitat led to the downsizing of the turkeys to a mere 30,000, bringing them closer to extinction.
This created sinister concerns, and a number of the remaining turkeys were transferred to the reforested plantations and recovered woodlands to allow them to inhabit and produce new breeds, consequently expanding their species.
Fortunately, after considerable conservation efforts, 8 decades later today, the number has escalated to a 7 million, with the population incessantly on the rise. At present, the range of the species is widely prevalent throughout Northern America.
The wild Turkey is one of the two birds native to North America that are domesticated. The domestication of turkeys now extends across the globe, with Turkeys being a scrumptious poultry meal.
During the breeding season, the female Turkey lays a large clutch of eggs, comprising of 10-12 eggs. She lays one egg each day over a period of almost two weeks, followed by an incubation period of around one month.
Majority of the chicks that hatch from the eggs are in an altricial condition. In contrast, the little hatchlings of turkeys - referred to as poults - are born rather precocial, covered in feathers and capable of a high level of activity within a short period of time.
It takes only twenty-four hours for the poults to leave their nests.
Female turkeys have a prominent role in rearing their young, while the father tends to dissociate himself from the responsibilities of raising his poults.
The young leave their nests with their mothers who assists them in foraging for food and offering protection against predators. The young usually feed on berries, seeds and insects.
You might be stunned to learn that turkeys ingest stones. Along with the food they consume, eating stones aids in the digestion.
The digestive system of turkeys consists of two stomachs. The glandular stomach secretes gastric juices to soften the food whereas the gizzard grinds up the food molecules.
Since turkeys do not have teeth, the stones they eat go in the gizzard, where they help the body of the bird to break down food particles to be further transmitted to the intestines.
It might be abstruse to picture a Turkey on top of a tree. However, despite their hefty built and considerable weight, wild turkeys roost in the trees. Due to their poor night vision, they prefer to stay hidden amidst the branches and roost the entire night, only to appear back on the ground at dawn.
The introduction of the unofficial domestic pardons that are granted to Turkeys informally began in 1947. However, it actually dates back to the presidential era of Abraham Lincoln when his youngest son pleaded that the bird intended to be slaughtered for Thanksgiving dinner had a right to live.
It was in 1989, under George Bush’s administration that the official pardoning ceremony was initiated. From this time onwards, it has been a formal practice by the US presidents to pardon two Turkey birds, the presidential and vice-presidential, before Thanksgiving.
These two turkeys are raised in the farms and often granted a temporary exposition for the American audience to greet and relish.
Male turkeys go the extra mile to entice a female when choosing a mate. They put quite an alluring parade, puffing up their plump plumages and expanding their striking tail feathers into a flashy display.
Often times, a flock of related turkeys would band together, putting up a jaunty show to court the females, out of which only one member would be able to achieve the approval of the female.
Walking around in a proud gait, they present a delightful prance with their own gobbles, as the female clucks back at them. The tom who puts out the most impressive performance becomes the winner!
One of the most awaited festivals of the year, on Thanksgiving Day, the dinner tables are filled with sumptuous Turkeys enriched with succulent flavors.
These big birds are undeniably popular for the tempting treats at this time of the year. Turkey meat is divinely tender and delicious. 46 million Turkeys are slaughtered each year for Thanksgiving. This actually makes up the entire population of Spain - Woah!
On average, wild turkeys weigh around 20 pounds, while the domesticated ones are bred to be heavier, almost twice the size. Let’s say, each Turkey slaughtered weighs an average of 30 pounds. This adds up to a total consumption of 1.4 billion pounds of Turkey.
Statistics show that 88% of the Americans eat Turkey at Thanksgiving. So, consider yourself to be in the minority proportion if you’re not amongst a Turkey fan on Thanksgiving.
The most turkeys are consumed during the months of November and December, showing a rise in demand during this time. This calls for an extra poultry supply during these months.
Ever wondered when to celebrate the National Turkey Lover's Month? Well, June it is! Demonstrate your love for Turkeys by cooking some delicious turkey bacons and burgers!
Next time you see numerous turkeys swaggering around as you drive in the suburbs, you can call them a Rafter with certainty.
Identifying these gallant birds wouldn’t be much of a challenge due to their conspicuous plumage, distinct facial features and their fanned tail. Most likely foraging on their favorite feeds on the ground, be wary and don’t try to approach the birds, or else you might find yourself in a blistering encounter.
Are you interested in reading more? Here’s a fun post you can explore detailing facts about flamingos and their flying habits.
My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!
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