Do You Know These Facts About Wild Turkeys?

Wild and domesticated turkeys may have a lot in common.  However, just because you nosh on turkey for Easter or Thanksgiving, doesn’t mean you know “jack” about the wild ones!

Note this turkey's beard sticking from his chest!

Sizing Up a Turkey

When choosing a turkey for Thanksgiving, you probably select one between 24 and 28 pounds for a large family gathering.   Domesticated turkeys are raised for lots of meat vs. their body size. 

 Habitat and food availability determine a wild turkey’s weight.  They average  a bit over 20 lbs. in the agricultural areas of the Midwest. In other areas, they average somewhat less than 20 lbs.

How Can I Tell a Wild Turkey’s Age?

The legs of an adult gobbler are about 2″ longer than a domesticated turkey.  Their feet grow to about 4 and 1/2 inches.

A few inches above the feet are bony areas called spurs, with a fingernail-like covering.   Colors of the spurs can range from black to white to translucent.

Soon after birth, the spurs begin to grow. General measurements are:

  • About 1/2 inch by the jake’s (young male’s) first birthday
  • 2 year-old’s have spurs just under an inch
  • and 3 year-olds have spurs just over an inch
  • It is rare for turkeys to have spurs longer than 1.5 inches because of wear

The reason western turkeys do not have spurs as long as their eastern brethren is because of the rough terrain they cover.

 Birds with Beards

Male turkeys have beards – which are modified feathers (not hair).  It is not unusual for a male to have more than one beard!

The beard grows 4 to 5 inches each year.  A jake’s beard starts to show on his chest at about 6 months of age.  

Although turkeys molt and shed feathers, the beard is part of a turkey for life … unless something happens.

Once the beard reaches about 10 inches, it can wear away by dragging, getting caught in fencing, etc.  How much beard wearing  turkeys experience is an individual thing — depending on the thickness of the beard, height of the bird and the terrain he covers.

Did You Know?

One in 20 females has a beard!

Beard and spur lengths are usually more interesting to turkey hunters — rather than their weight!


‘Turkey Dream 2″ is used by permission of Restyler’s Choice Graphics


Next Time:  More Fascinating Feather Facts & Caruncle Considerations!


This blog is a companion to my website: 

Published in: on April 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm  Comments Off on Do You Know These Facts About Wild Turkeys?  
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