Dr. Tom: Double Snood

Ohio hunter James Mays submitted this photo via social media of a gobbler sporting a double snood. How rare are double snoods on wild turkeys? Dr. Tom weighs in. 

This specimen appears to be a mature gobbler. Without seeing the spurs, it’s a bit difficult to judge, but the bird’s crown and caruncula suggest that it is likely three years or older. I have seen one other case of a gobbler with a double snood many years ago. This anomaly is quite rare, but like other abnormalities, it does occur occasionally.

Those who study anatomy refer to the snood as the frontal process, also sometimes referred to as the leader. The purpose of the snood is as a sexual ornamentation designed to attract the attention of hens. The snood can be elongated when the gobbler is displaying and in hot weather. When the bird is nervous the snood contracts. The colors of the featherless skin on a gobbler’s head and upper neck is important for signaling its mood to other turkeys. The naked skin on the snood, head and upper neck serve another purpose: heat dissipation in summer. 

There is some data to suggest that hens may be more likely to select older gobblers with longer snoods for breeding. That is a bit speculative because other attributes related to maturity also enter into the picture, and older gobblers simply may be a bit more aggressive in fending off competitors.

Estimating the rate at which double snoods occur is a tough challenge. Between live trapping wild turkeys for banding and telemetry studies, as well as examining gobblers shot by hunters, I would guess that I have looked at a few thousand wild turkey gobblers. Since I have seen only one other gobbler with a double snood, I believe we can safely say that this oddity is seen in only one in several thousand male wild turkeys.

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