About Turkeys (2023)

About Turkeys (1)Becoming comfortable around humans can be dangerous for wildlife, so it is important to do everything we can to prevent that from happening. Thanks to a generous grant from the Nion Robert Thieriot Foundation, the MSPCA is proud to be able to offer informational pamphlets on avoiding conflicts with turkeys AT NO CHARGE to any Massachusetts municipality. Learn more on how to request these pamphlets.

Wild turkeys have lived in most parts of Massachusetts since Colonial times. Over time, however, human development and hunting took their toll, and by 1851 there were no turkeys left in Massachusetts. Restoration attempts began around 1911 and continued until the population was successfully restored in the late 1990s. Today, you can find wild turkeys living in most parts of Massachusetts.

Turkeys found in Massachusetts have a rich, brown-shaded plumage with a metallic or iridescent sheen and white and black bars on their primary wing feathers. Males, called toms, can stand up to 4 feet tall and weigh more than 20 pounds. Females, called hens, are approximately half the height and weight of males.

Turkeys are social animals, living and feeding together in flocks. They inhabit a wide range of environments, including forested, semi-forested, and open habitat. All turkey habitat, however, must have both trees and grasses for feeding, resting/roosting, and nesting. Trees provide food (nuts, seeds, fruit, etc.) resting areas, cover from predators, and a place to roost at night. Hens with young will roost on the ground until their young are able to fly. Grasses are important for both adult and young turkeys, providing food for both.

Nesting season starts in late March or early April, during which time the hens build their nests on the ground, usually in tall grasses in fields or the forest. The hens lay one egg a day until 10 to 12 eggs have been laid. The average incubation time is 28 days, and in late May or early June the eggs hatch over a 24 to 36 hour period.

During the first 4 weeks of life, baby turkeys, called poults, are unable to fly and rely on their mother for protection. Hens hiss and ruffle their feathers to scare away predators and will only abandon the nest as a last resort. When the poults are between 4 and 5 weeks old, they are able to fly 25 – 50 feet and begin to roost in trees with their mother. Turkeys learn from each other, usually by imitating older birds. Through this process they learn how to find food and how to navigate the boundaries of their home range.

Wild turkeys can fly up to 55 miles per hour and run up to 25 miles per hour. They have several predators, including humans, crows, snakes, skunks, raccoons, and opossums. The average life span of a wild turkey is 3 to 4 years.


Wild turkeys are social birds who live in flocks, which are organized by “pecking order.” Sometimes turkeys believe humans are part of the “pecking order” and will treat them accordingly. If a turkey views someone as dominant, they will act submissive or fearful. If someone is viewed as a subordinate, however, the turkey may act boldly.

To prevent conflicts with turkeys:

  • Do not feed turkeys. Whether intentional or not, feeding wild animals may lead to bold or aggressive behavior.
  • Clean up bird feeder areas. Birdseed can attract wild turkeys, as well as other animals, so make sure you clean up spilt seed around bird feeders daily or use a feeder designed to keep seed off the ground.
  • Do not be intimidated by turkeys. Bold turkeys can be deterred by loud noises, spray from a water hose, a leashed dog, vigorous waving of your arms, and so on.
  • Protect your garden. Turkeys looking for food in your garden can be humanely harassed by, for example, spray from a water hose or a leashed dog. Also, use fencing and netting to protect your garden, and installing a motion sensor on a garden hose will encourage turkeys to look for their next meal elsewhere. Click here to find a list of vendors that sell these attachments.
  • Cover shiny/reflective objects during mating season. Male turkeys may peck at windows and car bumpers during mating season (late March/early April) because they think that the reflection they see of themselves is a competing Tom. Covering low windows and glass doors can help deter turkeys from pecking at glass. Rubbing soap on car bumpers to make them less shiny is also effective.

Watch this video, which is one of a series of our humorous takes on how to prevent wildlife conflicts and live humanely with our wild neighbors.



What are 10 facts about turkeys? ›

10 Interesting Facts About Turkeys
  • Both male and female turkeys gobble. ...
  • Wild turkeys can fly. ...
  • Wild turkeys sleep in trees. ...
  • They can change colors. ...
  • Their poop determines if they're male or female. ...
  • Benjamin Franklin preferred the turkey to the bald eagle. ...
  • Turkeys can see better than humans.
Mar 24, 2022

What is special about turkeys? ›

Turkeys are intelligent and sensitive animals that are highly social. They create lasting social bonds with each other and are very affectionate; rather similar to dogs. Turkeys have the ability to learn the precise details of an area over 1,000 acres in size.

What are 3 facts about turkey meat? ›

Americans consume more than 5 billion pounds of turkey each year, which is nearly 16 pounds of turkey per person. The U.S. exports more than 600 million pounds of turkey meat each year. It takes 75 to 80 pounds of feed to raise a 38-pound tom. Turkeys, especially wild ones, can fly.

Do turkeys bond with humans? ›

Unfortunately, most turkeys are only a few weeks old when they're moved into filthy, windowless sheds with thousands of other turkeys, where they'll spend the rest of their lives until they're transported to a slaughterhouse. When given the chance, turkeys can form special bonds with humans and other animals.

Are turkeys as smart as dogs? ›

They are incredibly curious and inquisitive animals who enjoy exploring. Turkeys are highly intelligent animals who, just like the dogs and cats in our homes, are playful individuals with unique personalities.

What do turkeys do everyday? ›

They're simply following a pattern of daily rituals: feeding, calling, breeding, preening and loafing through the day. Use a turkey's daily rituals to plan a hunt strategy, especially when gobblers are henned up. It can be a long, tough hunt, but those are typically the most memorable.

What are 2 facts about turkey meat? ›

Turkey is low in fat and high in protein. Turkey has more protein than chicken or beef. White meat has fewer calories and less fat than dark meat. Turkeys will have 3,500 feathers at maturity.

What is a flock of turkeys called? ›

A group of turkeys is called a rafter or a flock. Due to overhunting and deforestation that eliminated wild turkeys' habitats, these birds were nearly extinct in the 1930s. Today, there are more than 7 million wild turkeys, and the population of these birds is increasing in many areas.

Why are turkeys popular at Thanksgiving? ›

One reason for this: A roasted turkey makes a perfect celebratory centerpiece. A second one is that turkey is also practical for serving to a large crowd. Turkeys are bigger than other birds raised or hunted for their meat, and it's cheaper to produce a turkey than a cow or pig.

Is turkey a healthier meat than chicken? ›

As you can see, the values are quite similar. But if you had to choose the healthier option, you'd probably had to go with turkey. Compared to chicken, turkey tends to be lower in calories, fat, and sodium, with a slightly higher percentage of iron.

Is turkey the healthiest meat to eat? ›

For the most part, turkey is one of the healthiest meat options available. It's very similar to skinless chicken in terms of its healthy nutritional properties. Both are sources of low-fat, heart-healthy meats. Lean options — like turkey — are always a healthier choice than red meats.

How far can turkeys fly? ›

Wild turkeys can fly at speeds of up to 40 mph to 50 mph, but only for short distances. They usually limit their flight to distances of about 100 yards or less. That is enough to get the birds to safety if threatened by a predator. They also fly up into trees to roost for the night.

Can turkeys remember faces? ›

Turkeys remember your face, and they will sit closer to you with each day you revisit. So if you return day after day, before long, a few birds will pick you out as their favorite and come running up to you whenever you arrive.

Are turkeys aggressive? ›

Turkeys may attempt to dominate or attack people that they view as subordinates, and this behavior is observed most often during breeding season. They may also respond aggressively and peck shiny objects like windows or automobiles, interpreting their own reflection as an intruding turkey.

Do turkeys have emotions? ›

All poultry species are sentient vertebrates and all the available evidence shows that they have a very similar range of feelings as mammalian species. Poultry can suffer by feeling pain, fear, and stress." More information about the lives of turkeys can be found here.


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