Under the Feathers: The Curiosity, Intelligence and Personality of Turkeys

Written by Katie Vann

turkeys

Referring to them as “birds of courage,” Benjamin Franklin believed the turkey should be named the national bird as of the United States (instead of the bald eagle). Perhaps he admired the intelligence, beauty or resourcefulness of turkeys – these are characteristics unknown to most Americans who, today, often view turkeys as little more than the center of the holiday dinner table.

Yet anyone who has the opportunity to meet these animals at sanctuaries will tell you that they are highly intelligent animals who, just like the dogs and cats in our homes, are playful individuals with unique personalities. They also form strong social bonds and show affection towards one another. Mothers raise their chicks for five months and fiercely protect them from danger.

Their intelligence is also evident in the fact that turkeys can recognize each other by their voices, and more than 20 unique vocalizations have been identified in wild turkeys. 

Turkeys living in the wild or on sanctuaries enjoy building nests, foraging, taking dust baths and raising young. They are incredibly curious and inquisitive animals who enjoy exploring, and their ability to remember the geographic content of an area larger than 1,000 acres aides this curiosity.

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Wild turkeys can also fly 55 miles an hour and run 18 miles an hour. However, turkeys raised on today’s factory farms aren’t nearly as agile because they’ve been bred to grow abnormally large. In the 1960s, it took 220 days to raise a 35-pound turkey. Due to selective breeding and growth-promoting drugs, it now takes only 132 days. Such fast growth causes turkeys to suffer from a number of chronic health problems.

Turkeys are gentle creatures who enjoy socializing with human companions and protecting other turkeys with whom they’ve bonded. This holiday season, let’s give turkeys something to be thankful for by leaving them, and all animals, off our plates. Visit VegRecipes.org for cruelty-free Thanksgiving recipes.


Top photo credit: Farm Sanctuary