Can wild turkeys fly?

Aside being aggressive and sometimes amorous towards humans, scratching and denting our reflective bumpers with sturdily built beaks and making irritating ‘ill-obble-obble-obble’ sounds that travel distances greater than one kilometer in the air, what other thing do wild turkeys know how to do best?

It’s to take into the air!

Yes, wild turkeys can fly! Fly moderately high in the sky at intermittent bursts of brief distances with highly impressive speeds.

They have some 5000 to 6000 feathers and extremely keen eyesight to accomplish this maneuver in the daytime and also at evenings or in the night.

In flights characterized by longer distances, those approaching the one mile figure or close, wild turkeys would take a few running steps, perform several heavy and powerful strokes with their fairly large wings and finally take into the air.

Then, they flap continuously to attain balance, set their wings and sail smoothly until they are close to their destinations, and then beat their wings rapidly to descend comfortably on the ground surface. They often observe take offs from elevated surfaces such as a mountain road.

For relatively short distances however, for example, the less than 20 meters distance required to ascend into trees or climb on top of wild shrubs, wild turkeys require no extra running or prolonged winged beats, with shorter and more violent wing beats sufficient to cause them to fly away to their destinations.

And that’s how wild turkeys take into the air in their habitats. The animals best described with the three mixed words; majestic, Cocky and Athletic.

In the next few sections, we’ll discuss how fast wild turkeys can fly, what distances they are able to cover and what the reasons are for their in-hesitant take offs into the air.

How fast and far can wild turkeys fly?

Generally, wild turkeys prefer to walk and run their distances rather than take into the air on a daily basis, but nevertheless, they are still quite comfortable and actually good when they become airborne. 

The quality of their flights is incomparable to those of aerial raptors such as eagles and hawks. The flights however, would still be characterized as fluid, solid and smooth for muscular and heavy birds like themselves, except when there is deep powdery snow sprinkled all over the ground, in which case, it greatly impedes their abilities to become airborne. This usually occurs in winter. 

Wild turkeys can cover distances no more than a mile, 1609 meters, or 1760 yards, and gain maximum speeds of upto 40 to 55 miles per hour.

Younger turkeys usually fly at lesser speed and manage smaller durations than their adult counterparts. They average around 30 miles per hour for a maximum distance of 400 meters.

Wild turkeys begin exercising their flight muscles in summer, some few weeks after they hatch out. They observe keenly, how their moms fly into the trees and onto the top of thick shrubs while attempting to mimic exactly what she’s done and simultaneously barking at her spurs when they fail to reach her.

At the early age of six weeks, juveniles are already fairly strong fliers, and by autumn, their flight abilities and skills must have sharpened greatly to the point where they are able to cover the distances mentioned above, unless the turkey in question is of course inept. 

While the speeds attainable by adult wild turkeys might seem quite impressive because it matches and even surpasses the average speed for many bird species out there, the maximum speed is actually quite cramped in comparison to the 200 miles per hour attainable by the fastest bird in the world, the peregrine falcon. 

Why do wild turkeys fly?

To migrate to new habitats

Turkeys in the wild fly in order to change their current habitats, usually to any place that is just nearby and also has abundant food resources and water. Turkeys mostly migrate by trekking or running, than flying. 

To climb trees

Turkeys roost and sleep in the very tall trees found within the hardwood and conifer hardwood forests where they inhabit.

They are able to reach heights of upto 16 meters by strongly beating their wings and violently taking off from the ground surface or wherever they’re climbing up from. Turkeys fly into the trees and perch on sturdy and old branches for the night. 

Taking up shelter at night in the trees and nesting on sturdy branches situated high up is an effective way for poultry birds like wild turkeys having night-blindness to avoid predation by animals that hunt by sight and at night such as snakes, bald eagles, owls, hawks, coyotes and wolves to mention a few.

To flee predators

Though rarely observed, wild turkeys can fly into trees, or to extended distances when pursued and pressed by predators. The most frequently applied defensive techniques of the wild turkey however, is to run away as fast as they can while doing so in an crisscross path in order to out pace and confuse their predators. 

Adults can also fight off predators and the males, also known as toms, are known to be very aggressive while in self defense mode. Anyone that has been confronted by one knows exactly what we’re talking about.

Turkeys may kick at their predators while aiming to use the spiny spurs located on their legs as a weapon. They can pinch and scratch painfully with their bills, charge at predators (often a hoodwink attempt) or even ram them with their relatively large bodies.

Adult wild turkeys are known to deter predators the size of monkeys.

Can domestic turkeys fly?

Wild turkeys and domesticated turkeys are one and the same species. They primary difference between these two all boils down to where they live: the former lives freely within the perimeters of the wild, whereas the latter thrives in a domestic setting. 

Even though both specimens are one and the same species and wild turkeys are pretty capable of becoming airborne at their own volition, domesticated turkeys are incapable of taking into the air at all. That can count as one of the few distinguishing features between them. 

The reason why domesticated turkeys are incapable of becoming airborne is as a result of their relatively bulkier nature; having more mass, being larger, stronger and having more muscular breasts than their wild counterparts.

This size greatly diminishes their power to mass ratio and makes it difficult for them to beat wings quickly enough to support sustained flights.

Domesticated turkeys are this thick because they have been selectively bred by farmers overtime to look like that. 

Can wild turkeys run?, if so, how fast can they go?

Yes, wild turkeys can run. Very fast as a matter of fact. An adult male turkey, gobbler or tom chased down by an irate predator can stride over 4 feet and run at speeds upto 18 miles per hour. The track of a large gobbler can measure over four and half inch wide while that of females, poults, and nestlings measure less than that.

Can wild turkeys swim?

Wild turkeys seem like they know how to do everything don’t they?

Reader: Don’t tell me they know how to swim also?

Emborawild: Yes, they do. In fact, they are extremely adept swimmers. They generally wouldn’t be seen diving into the waters to wash off dirt from their bodies or break away from the fierce claws of the sun, because they really aren’t big fans of the water waves and currents, but make no mistake, wild turkeys will gracefully swim in water even amidst its strong waves and currents when dropped accidentally by man or by nature. 

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Cite this Article (APA Format)

Bunu. M. (2020, July 26). Can wild turkeys fly?. Retrieved from

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