Happy Turkey Holiday!

It’s the time of year when ONE BIRD receives all the attention, at least here in the USA: the turkey. Turkeys have been part of the human food chain for a long time, Native Americans hunted them for food and so did the first settlers. Due to unregulated hunting turkeys declined dramatically with the increasing human population. By 1904 turkeys had all but disappeared from Ohio. Today the Wild Turkey¬†Meleagris gallopavo is again a common sight in many metro parks in Ohio. Blendon Woods, for example, has a good population that can be observed easily, often even at the feeders at the nature center.

Note the bristly “beard” extending off the chest of male turkeys and the spurs on their legs as seen in the photos above. The two males on the right are displaying and probably make some “gobbling” sounds.

As a bioacoustician I am of course most interested in the sounds these birds make. You are probably familiar with the famous “gobble” call males make in spring to attract a mate but also in response to other males calling. Here is a recording from our archive (BLB21391):

The gobble is a loud, rapid gurgling sound, it’s the turkey’s version of a rooster’s crow.

Females make quite different calls (BLB12583):

Here is an example of calls given by a juvenile female (BLB13261):

I hope this made you appreciate the diversity of turkey calls and you will listen for their calls next time you visit one of the metro parks.

All recordings are of captive birds at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Wooster, Ohio in 1974. You can listen to the full recordings by clicking on the cut numbers above.


angelika_nelson_birdingAbout the Author: Angelika Nelson is curator of the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics.