By Alexandra Vancea
1. Their heads are like mood rings!
The color of a turkey’s head and throat will change to blue when the turkey is calm, bright red when he is stressed or angry, and a mixture of red, blue, and white when content.
The colors are caused by the blood vessels directly under the skin. When a turkey’s emotions change, the blood vessels contract. This changes the way the incoming light scatters and reflects off of the turkey’s skin, causing it to appear blue or white.
2. They are related to T-Rex!
The furcula (the technical term for wishbone) is a bone found in dinosaur skeletons and today’s birds – paleontologists point to this bone as evidence that birds descended from dinosaurs!
The furcula is situated on the birds’ chest and it plays an important role in the flight mechanics. Unfortunately for many of the birds Animal Place rescues, artificial selection for large breast muscles and bodies have led to birds who are unable to even fly.
3. All male turkeys have beards!
While the beard is always present in male turkeys, approximately 30% of female turkeys have one as well. Some males boast not just one, but two beards, with the number sometimes going up to a whopping eight beards!
The beard is comprised of specialised feathers called filoplums. A beard grows with age and may be used by females as an indicator of good health and longevity. Others believe the modified feathers serve a sensory function and tell the bird when their contour feathers need adjusting.
4. They eat rocks for good digestion…oh, and they also have two stomachs!
Turkeys (and chickens) swallow pebbles or small rocks to aid in digestion. The rocks are stored in an organ called the gizzard where mechanical breakdown of food occurs since turkeys do not have teeth.
Turkeys might not have teeth, but they do have two stomachs! The glandular stomach is where food is softened and broken down by gastric juices. The food then enters the second stomach, the gizzard, which is muscular and further dissolves the food by grinding it against the stones.
5. They see in color and have great hearing!
Turkeys have excellent vision and are able to see in full color.
Because their eyes are on the sides of their heads, they have periscopic vision, allowing them to see objects that are not in their direct line of sight. A turkey’s field of vision is 270 degrees, compared to only 180 degrees in humans!
Although they don’t have external ears (they have ear openings, covered by a small flap of fuzz), they have great hearing, love listening to music, and will cluck along with the songs.
Like most birds, a nesting turkey hen clucks, whistles, and croons to each chick growing inside the egg. According to the experts, this “is critical to the survival of the chicks,” whose long association with their mother, for nearly half a year after they hatch, “seems essential.”
By contrast, on most farms the hatching takes place in incubators, interrupting the social experience and the bond that would naturally form between mothers and chicks.