NewsMontana and Regional News


A Wilder View: Fun facts about turkeys

Posted at 10:30 AM, Nov 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-24 12:30:12-05

MISSOULA — Turkeys are a delicious part of many Thanksgiving meals, but there’s a lot more to the large bird than how good they taste. This edition of A Wilder View takes a look at some interesting facts you can tell around the dinner table on Thanksgiving.

Your holiday turkey is a Saurischian dinosaur -- yes, a dinosaur. Saurischian falls into the same category as a T-rex and velociraptor - they’ve been around for millions of years

Turkeys are among the five largest flying birds in the world. According to the National Wild Turkey Federation, they can fly at speeds up to 55 miles per hour - although they usually choose to stay on the ground. They can be pretty speedy - a running turkey can reach up to 25 mph.

They also have incredible vision. Their eyes can see three times greater than 20/20 and have peripheral vision of around 270 degrees.


Turkeys are known for the gobbling sound they make, but only the males can make the iconic sound. Female turkeys will cluck much like a chicken, yelp, and even purr like a cat.

If you don’t hear them but find their droppings you can determine a turkey’s gender from what they leave behind. Males produce spiral-shaped poop and females’ poop is shaped like the letter J.

Studies have shown that snood length — that fleshy thing on the forehead of males — is associated with turkey health. Studies also found that female turkeys prefer males with long snoods and that snood length can also be used to predict the winner of a competition between two males.


So, how’d they get their name? It seems strange that a bird Native to North America is named after a faraway country.

Well, their name is kind of a mistake. When turkeys became popular to eat in England, they tasted similar to guinea fowl that were imported from the country Turkey and thus gave the bird its now familiar name.

Benjamin Franklin never actually proposed the turkey as a symbol for America, but he did praise it in a letter as “a much more respectable bird” than the bald eagle.