Turkeys of a Feather
Are you aware that young jakes have longer primary feathers in the center of their fan-shaped
In fact that is a way to tell a mature tom from a young jake. Keep in mind that the only time you will see those longer tail feathers is when a jake struts!
At a distance, hen feathers look dark brown while a tom’s appear black.
Each of the 5 subspecies of wild turkeys has unique characteristics. For an in-depth explanation (with photos), refer to these earlier articles:
Perhaps the reason Ben Franklin wanted to name the turkey as the symbol of the US (instead of the bald eagle), is because a male gobbler’s head color is red, white and blue!
In contrast, a hen’s head color is a rather dull blue-gray.
Also known as wattles, caruncles are the fleshy growths that hang from the turkey’s head and neck. According to Wikipedia, “The wattle is often an ornament for courting potential mates. A large wattle is correlated with high testosterone levels, good nutrition ….” *
An adult gobbler’s caruncle will turn bright red when he is sexually excited. In contrast, a hen has a smaller wattle that is pink. An excited jake will have a wattle that is more pink than red.
FYI for Hunters
In the latter days of the mating season, it may be easier for a hunter to take a tom. He’s still interested in sex but there are fewer hens available for breeding.
As more hens start nesting, gobblers may resort to more strident calling for females. Since he’s more stressed (looking for the few hens remaining to breed), he’s more likely to make a mistake — and move into the crosshairs of a hunter’s gun.
* Wikipedia, from the page — “Wattle (anatomy)”
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