Turkey Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

Learn all about how turkeys live in the wild. In this lesson, you'll gobble down some facts about turkeys, what they're like, what they eat, and how they live and raise their babies.

What Are Turkeys Like?

You might eat turkey at Thanksgiving, but did you know that not all turkeys are raised on farms for holiday meals? Turkeys also live in the wild. In fact, they're commonly called wild turkeys and live all over the United States, including Hawaii, as well as Mexico. They also live in some places in Europe and New Zealand.

Turkeys are big birds. From head to tail, a turkey measures around 3.5 to 4 feet. If a turkey stretches out its wings, the distance from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other is between 4 and 5 feet. Wild turkeys weigh between 5.5 and 19 pounds. That's about as heavy as a small dog!

Boys Versus Girls

Male and female turkeys look different. Male turkeys are called toms, and female turkeys are called hens. The males look the way you probably imagine a turkey. They have a big, fan-shaped tail, a red piece of skin called a wattle hanging down under the chin, and a bump on the forehead. Male turkeys also have spikes called spurs that grow from their ankles--you definitely wouldn't want a kick from a turkey!

A male wild turkey. Look at the big fluffy tail and the red wattle hanging down from his chin.
Male wild turkey

The female birds are smaller than the males. They have no wattles and no spurs, and they are lighter in color.

How Do Turkeys Act?

Turkeys are omnivores, meaning that they eat both plants and animals. They're definitely not picky eaters: Turkeys can eat acorns, seeds, berries, grass, bugs, spiders, frogs, lizards, and other plants and small animals. They mostly walk around looking for their food on the ground.

These birds can take off and fly if they need to, but they prefer to walk or run along the ground. When they run, they're speed demons: A turkey can run about as fast as a star sprinter can run. Flying, they can get up to 55 miles per hour, which is almost as fast as a car on a highway.

Turkeys are loud birds. When they really want to make a lot of noise, you can hear them from over a mile away. They're especially loud when they're making their mating calls.

A female wild turkey. See how she is lighter in color than the male and has no red wattle on her chin.
Female wild turkey

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