Domestic turkeys are considered birds that can’t fly due to their plump bodies, making it hard to imagine them getting off the ground.
Is this true for free-roaming turkeys as well? Can wild turkeys fly? Read on to find out more about wild turkeys, whether they can fly, and if they can, how far and how fast.
Wild turkeys do possess a limited ability to fly. They can launch themselves into the air with brief, powerful bursts of speed. They use flight to access tree branches where they roost at night, away from predators. However, they can’t cover long distances in the air.
Unlike domesticated turkeys, their wild counterparts regularly need to leave the ground, either to evade threats or reach an overnight roost high up in the forest canopy, away from where they search for food on the forest floor.
This natural flying instinct comes into play when they sense danger. However, wild turkeys are not built for long-haul flights, reaching great heights, or maintaining high speeds for extended periods.
Join us as we delve into the flying abilities of wild turkeys and explore the reasons why wild turkeys can fly while domestic ones cannot.
How fast can a wild turkey fly?
The average speed of a wild turkey during flight is an impressive 90 km/h (55 mph). However, these relatively large birds can’t maintain this pace for long periods or over long distances. Once in the air, a wild turkey will quickly reach its intended roosting spot or land on the ground at a safe distance from the perceived threat that caused it to take off.
On land, wild turkeys can cover much more ground, running at speeds of about 40 km/h (25 mph).
How high can wild turkeys go when they fly?
Wild turkeys fly at relatively low heights, just enough to reach the strongest branches of broad-leaved trees. Some of the highest spots where wild turkeys roost are about 15 meters (50 feet) above the ground. However, they also use lower spots, usually between 6 and 9 meters (20-30 feet) high.
These turkeys often return to the same favored roosting spot and usually don’t need to fly to higher branches if they find a thick, horizontal branch lower down the tree trunk.
How much distance can wild turkeys cover in flight?
Wild turkeys are much better suited for walking and spend most of their lives searching for food on the ground. They only fly when necessary, not for regular travel. Their flights are short and typically cover a maximum of about 400 meters (just under a quarter of a mile).
Also Read: What is a Group of Turkeys Called
How long can wild turkeys stay in the air?
Wild turkeys are designed for short bursts of flight, not long or leisurely flights. Their breast muscles aren’t developed for extended flying because their glycogen reserves, needed to sustain their strength while flying, are used up quickly.
At what age can baby wild turkeys start flying?
Baby wild turkeys, called poults, begin flying around 4 to 5 weeks after hatching. Until then, the mother turkey protects and cares for them on the ground. Once they’ve learned how to fly, young turkeys can do short flights to join their mothers and roost in trees overnight.
Do wild turkeys go on migrations?
Wild turkeys don’t have the ability to fly long distances for regular migrations. Since they can’t undertake migration flights, they adapt to changing temperatures in other ways. They can survive in temperatures as low as 4 degrees Celsius (40 degrees Fahrenheit) by using their body fat to stay warm.
Wild turkeys can go without food for about two weeks. When harsh winter conditions arrive, they might find a safe roosting spot high up in a tree and enter a hibernation-like state for an extended period of time.
Are wild turkeys able to swim?
Yes, wild turkeys are capable swimmers. They often live near water, and if they accidentally fall into a river or lake while looking for food, they can move through the water without much trouble, even though they don’t have webbed feet. They swim by spreading their tails, tucking their wings close to their bodies, and using their strong feet to kick.
Why can’t domestic turkeys fly?
Domestic turkeys were first tamed about 2,000 years ago, and over time, they’ve lost the ability to fly. They’ve been bred to be bigger for their meat, which means they have larger breasts and are heavier and less agile than wild turkeys.
The wings of domesticated turkeys aren’t developed for flying, and they can’t fly at all. But they don’t need to fly because they’re kept in safe enclosures at night where they’re protected from predators.
Do wild turkeys sleep in trees?
Yes, wild turkeys sleep in trees at night to stay safe from predators. They usually choose bigger trees with wide, horizontal branches, like oaks, sycamores, and cottonwoods. Wild turkeys prefer trees at the edges of open areas rather than dense forests. They pick roosting spots close to food and water sources.
Once they’re settled on a strong branch, they squat down with their feet gripping the branch. This helps them balance and prevents them from falling while they sleep.
Can wild turkeys fly well?
Wild turkeys are better at running than flying, but they can do short bursts of powerful flight when needed. They’re not built for graceful flying, but they can fly to escape from predators or find safe roosting spots in trees. While they can’t fly for long distances or at high speeds, they do use their flying ability to get away from danger.