6 Fascinating Bird Facts About Wild Turkeys

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

1. Turkeys Almost Went Extinct

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

In the early 1900s, hunters nearly wiped out wild turkeys. Thankfully, protective programs were instituted. 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.

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2. A Wild Turkey is a Faster Bird 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 they are capable of flight—and speedy flight, at that. They often escape danger by running. But if they have to make a quick exit, they can fly up to 55 mph. They’re a little less swift on land, trotting up to 25 mph.

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

3. We Eat a Lot of Turkey

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

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

4. 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.

5. Keep Your Ears Open for Wild Turkey Calls

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!

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6. You Might be Able to Attract a Wild Turkey Bird to Your Yard

Wild TurkeyALACATR/ISTOCKPHOTO
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.

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Emily Hannemann
Emily Hannemann is an associate digital editor for Birds & Blooms. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in magazine writing from the University of Missouri - Columbia. When she’s not writing and editing, you’ll find her swimming, running, or hiking. She knows blue jays are controversial, but she loves them anyway.