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What Does a Wild Turkey Look Like?


  • The wild turkey is the largest of North America's game birds.
  • Adult males, known as toms or gobblers, normally weigh between 16 and 24 pounds.
  • Females, known as hens, are smaller than males and usually weigh between 8 and 10 pounds.
  • The largest wild turkey on record weighed 37 pounds.


  • Males: Gobblers have iridescent red, green, copper, bronze and gold feathers. They use these bright colors to great advantage when attracting females during breeding season.
  • Females: Hens have drab, usually brown or gray feathers. They make great camouflage and hide hens when they sit on their nests.
  • Color Phases: A few wild turkeys grow unusually colored feathers. These are known as color phases. There are four color phases, a smokey gray color phase, a melanistic color phase (all black), an erythritic color phase (reddish coloration) and an albino color phase (very rare).


  • Males: Males have brightly colored, nearly featherless heads. During breeding season the color of their heads alternates between red, white and blue, often changing in a few seconds.
  • Hens: A hen's head is gray-blue and has some small feathers for camouflage.
  • Caruncles and Snoods: Both males and females have fleshy growths on their heads known as caruncles. They also both have snoods, fleshy protrubances that hang over their bills and can be extended or contracted at will. The snood of an adult male is usually much larger than that of a female. No one knows for sure what these growths are for, but both probably developed as ways to attract mates.


  • A male turkey grows a cluster of long, hairlike feathers from the center of its chest. This cluster is known as the turkey's beard.
  • On adult males, these beards average about 9 inches long.
  • 10 to 20 percent of hens also grow beards.
  • The longest beard on record is more than 18 inches long.


  • Wild turkey legs are reddish-orange.
  • They have four toes on each foot.
  • Male wild turkeys grow large spurs on the backs of their lower legs. These spurs are pointed, bony spikes and are used for defense and to establish dominance.
  • Spurs can grow up to 2 inches in length. The longest spurs on record are 2.25 inches long.


  • Wild turkey tails are usually 12 to 15 inches long and are banded at their tips. The color of the bands in the tail varies by subspecies.
  • Male wild turkeys fan their tails when displaying to attract a mate.
  • You can usually tell the difference between an adult male (a tom) and a juvenile male (a jake) turkey by looking at a turkey's tail. All tail feathers of adult males are the same length. The feathers forming the center of a jake's tail are usually longer than the rest of the feathers in the tail.


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