Why turkeys look so odd

Turkeys are odd-looking creatures.

With their bumpy red heads, hanging flaps of skin around their faces and large tails, wild turkeys are quite a sight.

The odd parts of their bodies also have interesting names and purposes. Let’s look at some of the body parts that make a turkey unique.

Graphic about turkey body parts

What’s a snood?

The snood is the fleshy flap of skin that hangs off a turkey’s beak.

Photo of a turkey with a snood

Wild turkey with a long snood. Photo by Shankar S. via Wikimedia Commons

Scientists haven’t found any specific function for the snood, but it does fill up with blood and hangs over the beak when male turkeys are strutting and showing off looking for mate. According to the National Wild Turkey Federation, females prefer to mate with long-snooded males. Also, males with shorter snoods will give in to males with longer snoods.

Wattling along

A wattle is a fleshy flap of skin under the turkey’s chin that some people may call a dewlap. The dewlap is more prominent in males than females.

Growing a beard

A male turkey has a beard that hangs off of its chest. It is made of coarse, rough feathers.

Photo of a turkey with a beard

The beard comes out of the turkey’s chest. Photo by Paul VanDerWerf, via Wikimedia Commons

A beard is about 3-4 inches on a young male and can grow 10 inches or longer on a turkey that is at least 3 years old. Some tom turkeys have multiple beards. A small percentage of female turkeys (10-20 percent) grow beards, but it may be a genetic mutation.

Caught with his spurs on

Male turkeys have spurs on the back of their legs that are sharp and allow them to fight with other birds. Older, dominate turkeys fight off other males when trying to breed.

Shake your tail feather

Turkeys typically have 18 tail feathers. Males have feathers with black tips, make them look shiny from a distance, and females have lighter feathers that allow them to stay hidden while incubating their nests.

Crazy caruncles

Caruncles are bumpy patches on a turkey’s neck. The carunclesmay play a role in attracting a mate.  The male wild turkey’s caruncles can turn blue, white or red when they fill with blood.

I hear you.

Turkeys do not have external ear flaps like humans do, but they still can hear about 10 times better than people. They also have great eyesight, but they can only see in black and white.

Your majesty

Male turkeys have a bare head crown that is mainly white during the spring, sometimes with a red tint. Females have a feathered head.

Photo of turkeys feeding

Wild turkeys with white head crowns. Photo by Wshallwshall, via Wikimedia Commons

Read more about turkeys with “10 Turkey Facts We Bet You Didn’t Know.”

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