Seen our Christmas ad? #TerryTheTurkey is our new festive hero! But how much do you actually know about Christmas' traditional main event?
As you’ve probably seen from our Christmas TV advert, we’re quite taken by #TerryTheTurkey right now.
Filming an advert is always an interesting experience but, because of Terry, we learned a whole load of things about turkeys that we weren’t necessarily expecting to. And seeing as there’s a lot of love for Terry at the moment, we thought we’d share them with you. So, without further ado, and validated by Terry’s adoptive mum at the Farm Animal Rescue Sanctuary (FARS) in Wolverton, Warwickshire (aka, Carole Webb), here are ten things about turkeys we never thought we’d know…
Not just big chickens
Turkeys may look like big chickens, but they couldn’t be more distantly related. Over 45 million years of evolution separates the two, and they have had very different paths through history. In fact, the wild turkey was close to extinction around the early 1900s, when the population was hunted from 10 million to just a few hundred thousand in North America. Thankfully, restoration programs were put in place, and the modern day turkey is back in business.
Why are turkeys called turkeys?
Believe it or not, it is actually because of the country. Sort of, anyway. When the guinea fowl was first imported from East Africa into Europe, it came through Turkey (then called the Ottoman Empire), and became colloquially known as the ‘Turkey bird’. So, when Spanish explorers first saw wild turkeys in South America, they simply mistook them for ‘Turkey birds’, and the name stuck.
A most patriotic bird…
Eventually the pilgrims took several domesticated turkeys with them across the Atlantic and colonised North America. As we know, the turkey became an important part of American culture, but contrary to popular belief, Benjamin Franklin never proposed the turkey as a symbol for America. However, he did once praise the turkey as being “a much more respectable bird” than the bald eagle.
They’re faster than you think…
To compare the mighty bald eagle to a humble turkey may seem silly, but they’re pretty remarkable animals. For starters, a wild turkey can get up to around 25 mph on its feet, and can fly as fast as 55 mph over short distances, and they can glide for about a mile without flapping their wings. And they can swim, too! It’s a wonder how we ever managed to catch them in the first place.
They have great sight and hearing…
Turkeys have extremely good eyesight and hearing, presumably as a result of nearly being hunted to extinction. They don’t actually have any external ears, but instead they have two direct ear canals that let them pick up sounds from over a mile away. Plus, their eyes are placed so they can focus on two objects at once, and can see in a 360 degree circle by twisting their neck.
And an amazing sense of direction, too!
Turkeys are actually really smart, particularly when it comes to geography – they have an outstanding sense of direction, and have shown the ability to learn their way around an area over 1,000 acres in size! They’re also incredibly sociable. Turkeys have long-lasting social bonds with each other, and often stay in groups, which have a number of great names including a ‘crop’, a ‘dole’, a ‘gang’, a ‘posse’, and a ‘rafter’. Male turkeys will even band together to try and court females, though, only one of them will actually do the mating.
Is it male or female?
Speaking of genders, a young male turkey is called a ‘jake’, whilst a young female turkey is called a ‘jenny’. Males are much larger than females, with an amazing plumage of red, purple, green, copper, bronze, and gold feathers. Female feathers are duller overall, in shades of brown and grey. If you’re really struggling, you can figure out a turkey’s gender from its droppings – males produce spiral-shaped droppings, and female droppings are shaped like the letter J.
“Turkeys don’t just gobble – they’re known to make more than 20 distinct noises, including ‘purrs’, ‘yelps’, and ‘kee-kees’”
Every turkey has a unique sound
When they become adults, male turkeys are called ‘gobblers’ – named after the ‘gobble’ noise they make – and females are called ‘hens’. But turkeys don’t just gobble – they’re known to make more than 20 distinct noises, including ‘purrs’, ‘yelps’, and ‘kee-kees’. In fact, every turkey has a unique voice, which is the primary way that turkeys recognise each other individually.
Clue is in the snood…
See the long fleshy bit on the gobbler’s beak? That’s called a snood, and it’s been the subject of great interest to scientists and academics for a long time now. Recent studies have shown that snood length is actually an indicator of how healthy the turkey is, and affects that turkeys standing within the group. A study in the Journal of Avian Biology back in 1997 found that not only do female turkeys prefer males with long snoods, but that snood length could often be used to predict the winner of a competition between two males.
Living the life…
Domesticated turkeys can live for up to 10 years and we’ve already made sure that #TerryTheTurkey and friends will enjoy life in the comfort and care of the Farm Animal Rescue Sanctuary.
Adoption is easy! If you’d like to adopt your own animal with the Farm Animal Rescue Sanctuary, you can, for just £2 a month, and visit whenever you like! Click here for more details!