What do you call a group of turkeys?

A group of turkeys is called a rafter of turkeys. Other collective nouns used to describe a group of turkeys include a flock of turkeys and a gang of turkeys. 

Some birders claim flock for domesticated turkeys and rafter for the wild variants, in truth however, there’s no evidence written or on tape to back up this weak claim.

We suspect that it’s nothing but a matter of choice that has persisted with people over the centuries.

As an animal conversationalist or the average Joe, you really can‘t get any diverted by calling group of turkeys anything outside their true name of rafters; be it flock or gang.

Some other incorrect terms used by people in North America includes ‘gobble’ or ‘gaggle’ of turkeys, dole of turkeys, crop of turkeys (maybe because they’re found pestering around and within crop fields), and “raffle” of turkeys.

You can use any of these terms of venery in conversations or in your articles and trust me, you’ll be totally fine. Just make sure to use the term rafter of turkeys whenever you need to sound professional and actually prove so while trying.

What exactly is a rafter by the way?

Why are groups of turkeys called rafter
A rafter (up)

The word rafter basically means a beam that forms part of the internal frame work of a roof — Oxford Advanced Dictionary.

Fascinatingly, the term ‘rafter’ also had or still has another meaning which is a small collection of similar things into a whole, according to James Lipton, author of the great book “An Exaltation of Larks” where the idea of rafter for turkeys is mainly sourced for this article.  

The fact that rafter also meant a collection of similar things into a whole, for example many logs of wood tied together to form a unit, might have been the sole inspiration for calling groups of turkeys rafters.

But it doesn’t just stop there. They are a handful of theories roaming around the internet seeking to provide explanation on how the phrase “rafter of turkeys” came into existence. We list some of the most prominent below.

Why are group of turkeys called a rafter?

Its because of their perching behavior

According to some weak sources, group of turkeys are called a rafter of turkeys because of their habit of perching on construction rafters to roost or seek shelter from predators during the early days of European occupation of North America.

The European workers (constructing buildings) at that time noticed this weird habits of turkeys and thus associated the term rafter for any groups they found resting on these structures. Overtime, the name grew popular and and today, a group of turkeys is known as a rafter of turkeys. 

The true meaning of rafter

Another source claims that the use of the term rafter for group of turkeys is tied with the Greek and Arabic words of raphtine (Greek) – which means to stitch together, TaPHar (Greek) which means to sew together, and raff (Arabic) related to the word roof – which means a woven enclosure or shelter for sheep.

The former words are related to the word rhapsody — which once meant a compilation of something, although the current meaning is far from that. The much recent word of ‘rafter’ is related to all three words from above, and today means a compilation of beams.

According to the sources, the use of the term rafter for turkeys must have probably stemmed from the fact that turkeys flee away in an interweave and crisscross when startled by people or predators. They scatter their paths across the woods in order to confuse whatever predator or person was chasing after them.

This weave and stitch like fleeing behavior which matches the meanings of the base words that the term ‘rafter’ itself is sourced from, justifies the choice of the word rafter for a group of turkeys.

From the century old phrase

Another similar theory to the second one is that the choice for the word rafter has to do with the old expression “to the rafters” which basically expresses over-excitement, over reaction or panic behavior of an animal or person.

Because turkeys also exhibit this type of panic behavior when chased after by people or predators, the use of the term rafter to describe a group of turkeys became popular.

How many turkeys make up a rafter?

As little as two and as much as 40 turkeys make up a rafter. This includes hens and their chicks, alongside other females and male parties. 

Wait a minute: Why are turkeys called turkeys in the first place?

Turkeys are called turkeys because of a certain middle bird called guinea fowl.

Guinea fowl are birds that resemble turkeys in external morphology and are native to eastern Africa. 

During the reign of the ottoman empire, (an empire created by the Turks) guinea fowls were imported to Europe from eastern Africa through the Ottoman Empire, where the Europeans at that time referred to them as turkey-cock or turkey-hen because they were sourced from the Turks.

When the new world settlers (of the Turk land) began sending similar look fowl ( the turkeys that we know of today), they referred to them as turkeys to the Europeans out of previous familiarity. And that is how the name turkey for the bird came to persist [1]. 

All names related to the turkey bird

Aside the unpopular rafter for group of turkeys, there are also some strange names used to refer to different life cycle stages of turkeys and even some parts of their bodies. We’ll be looking at them briefly below so that you may become familiar with them.

Different life cycle names of turkeys

What is a newborn turkey called?

  • A new born baby turkey is called a nestling or a chick.

What is a turkey less than a year old called? 

  • A poult.

What is a female turkey called?

  •  A female turkey is called a hen.

What is a male turkey called? 

  • A male turkey is called a tom or a gobbler. Younger males older than a year old are called jakes. They are easily distinguished from their older counterparts by their longer mid-tail feathers.

Parts of a turkey

In this section, we look at the different parts of a turkey and what they are called.

  • Caruncles: This is the red fleshy growth all over a turkey’s head and neck. Caruncles are present on both males and females.
  • Wattles: These are caruncles or flap of flesh dangling from a turkeys neck, similar to the paired growth (resembling a ear lobe) dangling from a chickens neck.
  • Snood: The long fleshy protuberance hanging over the bill of both male and female turkeys. The snood is relatively longer and larger in males and can be extended or contracted at will. Its use on the turkeys body is still unknown. 
  • Beak or Bill: The hard protruding portion of a turkeys mouth. It consists of an upper beak and a lower beak.
  • Spur: A sharp horn-like growth on the legs of turkeys.
  • Beard: A cluster of long, hair-like feathers projecting from the center of a male turkey’s chest.
  • Breast: The upper front part of a turkey.

Other related birds and their group names

  • Geese: gaggle
  • Doves: dule
  • Teal (small ducks): spring
  • Ravens: unkindness
  • Crow: murder
  • Hawks: cast
  • Guinea fowl: confusion

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Cite this Article (APA Format)

Bunu. M. (2020, July 30). What do you call a group of turkeys?. Retrieved from http://emborawild.com/what-do-you-call-a-group-of-turkeys/

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