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Wild Turkeys Flying

wild turkey 186Wild Turkeys spend 99.9% of their time on the ground, and often it is assumed they cannot fly. While the Wild Turkey is one of the heaviest North American birds, second only to the Trumpeter Swan, it definitely is able to lift itself off the ground and take flight. In fact, a Wild Turkey is amazingly well adapted for explosive, short-distance flight, perfect for escaping predators.

When startled or threatened, a turkey squats slightly, takes a few steps and then explodes upward with help from its powerful legs. Turkey wings are highly cupped, which enables quick takeoff, and the breast muscles that power a turkey’s wings are built for rapid but brief exertions. After take-off, which can be at a steep or small angle, a turkey’s wings beat rapidly until the desired height is attained. The turkey usually then glides to a tree or the ground, where it lands.

Although the maximum distance turkeys can fly in a single flight is estimated to be approximately one mile, they rarely fly more than about 100 yards, which is usually enough to bring it to safety. The average speed a turkey obtains while flying any distance is anywhere between thirty and fifty-five miles per hour. Equally as (or more) impressive than its ability to fly is a turkey’s ability to swim. They have been observed tucking their wings in close, spreading their tail and kicking while in the water.

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10 responses

  1. Marilyn

    The turkey that smashed into my windshield was definitely flying! But I never thought about their swimming.

    September 1, 2015 at 8:10 am

  2. I sometimes have disturbed a flock/family that has been nesting in trees, when I take my friend’s dog for an early morning walk in the woods. (They apparently don’t care when I walk by alone, but the bounding dog seemed to alarm them.) I also found a half dozen turkeys nesting in spruce trees near my son’s home in Cambridge, MA last winter. They are so bulky that they were not well hidden, but they were safely out of reach of any wandering coyote, of which there are some that roam that neighborhood. Am I right to assume that wild turkeys’ habit is to sleep in trees?

    September 1, 2015 at 9:07 am

  3. Harte Crow

    Oh, what a beautiful picture of a turkey in flight!

    September 1, 2015 at 9:07 am

  4. I love your photo, and how it shows every wing feather so clearly! What an amazing view!

    September 1, 2015 at 9:08 am

    • Thank you so much. I flushed it accidentally, and its little powder puff chicks scrambled away under the tall grass while the mother scared the living daylights out of me!

      September 1, 2015 at 11:39 am

  5. Kathie Fiveash

    Bald eagles are also swimmers. Several times I have watched an eagle take a common eider (very heavy duck) and then haul it, holding on with the talons on one foot, to a nearby ledge, rowing with its wings. Then the eagle plucks the duck and eats it, hopefully before the tide swamps the ledge. Amazing, these big birds swimming. I wonder what gets the turkey into the water in the first place.

    September 1, 2015 at 9:52 am

    • So cool–I had no idea either turkeys or eagles swam!

      September 1, 2015 at 12:17 pm

  6. Jennifer Waite

    I would pay big money to see a video of a turkey swimming 🙂 I had no idea they could do that!

    September 1, 2015 at 10:05 am

  7. We have many wild turkeys in my CT backyard, and this winter, with the abundant snowfall, we plowed a five ft wide path so they would have a place to rest and walk – at the end of the day, they would fly up to the tops of the pine trees and sleep there overnight. Very cool to see those big birds shadows above and see them fly down again in the morning after warming up from the sun’s rays.

    September 4, 2015 at 5:32 am

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