7 Fascinating Wild Turkey Bird Facts You Should Know

Updated: Apr. 02, 2024

Gobble up interesting tidbits about the wild turkey bird, including how fast wild turkeys can fly and if turkeys hold spiritual meaning.

Wild Turkeys Almost Went Extinct

Bnbbyc17 Wayne Skenandore, wild turkey birdCourtesy Wayne Skenandore
Wild turkeys were once at risk of extinction.

In the early 1900s, the situation for wild turkeys was dire. “Turkeys were eradicated from 18 of the 36 states that they had previously been found in,” Taylor Finger, game bird ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, says. “Since then, reintroduction efforts have brought them back to those states, and they’re doing extremely well. It was a huge conservation success story.”

Interestingly, the wild turkeys in Wisconsin today didn’t come from Wisconsin: they came from Missouri. “The state of Wisconsin traded for turkeys with Missouri, which received ruffed grouse in return,” Taylor says. “Wisconsin got the better end of the deal. Turkeys have done well in Wisconsin, but Missouri still doesn’t have ruffed grouse.”

Today, turkeys number nearly 7 million in the wild. Commonly called forest turkeys, the eastern wild turkey bird is one of the most abundant subspecies and is found in swamps and forests. The other United States subspecies Taylor mentions are Merriam’s, Rio Grande, Osceola, and Gould’s.

Discover 7 extinct birds that should never be forgotten.

Wild Turkeys Can Fly Faster Than You Think

Wild Turkey in FlightArthur Morris/Getty Images
A wild turkey can fly like other birds.

Most of the time when we see turkeys, they’re on the ground. It might come as a surprise to learn wild turkeys are capable of flight—and speedy flight, at that. “They can run up to 25 miles per hour, and they can fly up to 55 miles per hour,” Taylor says.

Discover what category turkeys ranked “fastest” in on our “fastest birds of North America” list!

People Eat a Lot of Turkey

Every year, the average American eats around 16 pounds of wild turkeys’ domestic cousins. We devour 44 million of these birds on Thanksgiving. That adds up to 736 million pounds of meat in one day (and countless naps on the couch).

How Much Does a Wild Turkey Weigh?

If you’ve wondered how much a wild turkey weighs, according to Taylor, males can range from 16 to 25 pounds; females are smaller on average, and usually weigh about 7 to 10 pounds.

Want more fascinating bird facts? Check out 14 mind-blowing facts about woodpeckers.

Wild Turkeys Hold Spiritual Meaning

Bnbbyc17 Vicky MarellaCourtesy Vicky Marella
A female turkey protectively covered her babies with her wing as a hawk flew overhead.

Turkeys were first domesticated in Mexico around 800 B.C. Some Native American tribes worshiped them and buried their dead in turkey-feather robes. The Aztecs held religious celebrations in the birds’ honor.

Learn more about turkey vultures.

Keep Your Ears Open for Wild Turkey Calls

Bird songs courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology 

If you hear loud noises in a forest, they might be coming from a turkey. These long-necked birds make more than 20 sounds, including the classic gobble-gobble produced by males. Some wild turkey calls can be heard from a mile away!

If you hear a strange noise coming from up in a tree, it could be a songbird… or it could be a turkey. “They roost in trees,” Taylor explains. “At night, that’s where they roost to sleep—they hang out in trees. We have a hard time thinking of them as flying birds, but they fly quite a bit. They get up there to avoid predators.”

Go nuts over these amazing facts about bald eagles.

How to Attract a Wild Turkey Bird

Wild turkeys eat a variety of foods.

These gobblers have big appetites. Large birds, they eat 5 pounds of food every week! Attract them with acorns, berries and cracked corn or large, ground-based bird baths.

Next, find out what foods can you feed to ducks?

About the Expert

Taylor Finger is the game bird ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. He holds a Master of science degree in biology from Western University.


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