Turkey facts for Turkey Day

PARK CITY, Utah — In honor of Thanksgiving, here are some fun facts about the star of the day — turkeys!

  • Turkeys have complex social hierarchies that are often for life. Once a position is defined in a hierarchy, it only changes with either more fighting or death.
  • Turkeys have interesting grooming behaviors, like dust bathing. To dust bathe, a bird lies on its side and flaps its wings in order to coat its body in dirt. This helps keep their plumage (feathers) nice and fluffy by removing the buildup of material and protecting the birds from lice or other parasites.
  • A turkey’s strut is most often a courtship display for male turkeys, but can also be used by females to show dominance.
  • The heaviest turkey ever raised was 86 pounds, about the size of a large dog. The average weight of a turkey purchased at Thanksgiving is 15 pounds.
  • Since 1970, turkey production in the United States has increased nearly 110%. In the same timeframe, turkey consumption has increased 104% in the US.
  • A male turkey is called a tom, while a female is called a hen. Baby turkeys are called poults.
  • Ben Franklin, in a letter to his daughter, proposed the turkey as the official United States bird.

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Information thanks to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the University of Illinois)

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