How to Describe a Turkey: A Comprehensive Guide

The wild turkey, a majestic bird native to North America boasts a fascinating array of characteristics that make it a truly unique and captivating creature. From its iridescent plumage to its distinctive gobble, the wild turkey is a sight to behold. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the intricate details of this remarkable bird providing you with the knowledge and vocabulary to describe it with accuracy and flair.

Physical Appearance

  • Size and Shape: The wild turkey is a large ground-dwelling bird, typically measuring 36-44 inches in length. Its body is stout and muscular, with a broad chest and a long, fan-shaped tail.

  • Plumage: The plumage of the wild turkey is a marvel of nature, showcasing a stunning array of colors and patterns. The male, or tom, sports iridescent bronze body feathers with black and white bars on its wings. Its head and neck are bare, revealing smooth, red skin. The female, or hen, has a more subdued appearance, with brown, white, or gray feathers on her breast and a feathered neck.

  • Head and Neck: The head and neck of the wild turkey are particularly noteworthy. The tom’s head is adorned with a fleshy wattle, a red, blue, or white lobe of skin that hangs from the neck. The female’s head is gray, and her neck is feathered.

  • Legs and Feet: The wild turkey has long, stocky legs, which are pink or gray in color. Its feet are strong and powerful, with four toes that are adapted for scratching and foraging.

  • Tail: The tail of the wild turkey is a prominent feature, serving as a visual display and a means of communication. The tail feathers are broad and fan-shaped, with a distinctive brown or white tip depending on the region.


The wild turkey is renowned for its distinctive vocalizations, which play a crucial role in communication and social interactions.

  • Gobble: The most iconic sound of the wild turkey is the gobble, a loud, resonant call that can be heard from a distance of up to a mile. The gobble is primarily used by males to attract females and establish dominance.

  • Cackle: The cackle is a high-pitched, rapid series of notes that is emitted by both males and females. It serves as an alarm call, warning other turkeys of potential danger.

  • Yelp: The yelp is a soft, high-pitched call that is used by young turkeys to communicate with their mothers.


The wild turkey exhibits a complex and fascinating array of behaviors, which have evolved to ensure its survival and reproductive success.

  • Social Structure: Wild turkeys are social animals that live in flocks, which can range in size from a few individuals to several dozen. The flock provides protection from predators and facilitates foraging and breeding.

  • Foraging: The wild turkey is an omnivore, feeding on a variety of plant and animal matter. Its diet includes acorns, nuts, seeds, fruits, insects, buds, fern fronds, and salamanders.

  • Breeding: Wild turkeys breed in the early spring, with males engaging in elaborate courtship displays to attract females. The female lays a clutch of 8-15 eggs in a shallow depression on the ground, which she incubates for 25-31 days.

  • Roosting: Wild turkeys roost in trees at night, seeking safety from predators and protection from the elements.


The wild turkey is found in a variety of habitats throughout North America, including hardwood and mixed conifer-hardwood forests, as well as areas with open spaces such as fields, pastures, orchards, and marshes.

Conservation Status

The wild turkey was once hunted to near extinction, but conservation efforts have led to a significant recovery in its population. Today, the wild turkey is classified as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The wild turkey is a remarkable bird that embodies the beauty and diversity of North American wildlife. Its distinctive appearance, vocalizations, behaviors, and habitat make it a captivating subject for observation and study. By understanding the intricate details of this fascinating creature, we can appreciate its ecological importance and contribute to its conservation.

Illustration of turkey

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word turkey. Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Turkey is a country in western Asia and southeast Europe. Its first known use dates back to confusion with the guinea fowl, which is thought to have been imported from Turkish territory.

1555, in the meaning defined at sense 1 Time Traveler

Articles Related to turkey

“Turkey.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

derived from turkey-cock, an old word for “guinea fowl,” from Turkey, an Asiatic nation; so named because, historically, people believed that the bird originated in Turkey Word Origin The bird that we now refer to as guinea fowl was originally called the turkey Turkey was the shortened version of turkey-cock and turkey-hen. The guinea fowls original home was in Africa. But when Europeans learned that it thrived in captivity and was a good food source, they brought it back to their continent. Some people mistakenly thought that the birds came from Turkey, and the name stuck. Later, when English settlers first came to America, they discovered a big bird that was edible living here. Because this new bird reminded them of the turkey they knew back in Europe, they named it Turkey.

see also turk sense 1

Turkey | Basic Information | Everyone Must Know


What is the adjective of turkey?

Country or region
a Turk
a Turkmen / the Turkmens
a Ukranian
The United Arab Emirates
an Emirati

What is the characteristic of turkey?

The wild turkey is a large ground-dwelling bird that is 36-44 inches in length. It has a large, fan-shaped tail; long, stocky pink or gray legs; short, rounded wings; a bare head and neck and a small, down curving bill. The wild turkey has iridescent bronze body feathers and black and white bars on its wings.

How do you describe a turkey for kids?

Turkeys might look big and bulky, but they can run and fly very fast. They’re omnivores that eat plants and small animals and, like other birds, turkeys lay eggs. Males have a red piece of skin called a wattle hanging down under the chin and spikes called spurs that grow from their ankles.

What are the characteristics of a good turkey?

The quality of the free-range space can vary, though, and the best birds come from farms where there is lots of space and pasture or forest areas for them to explore. Free-range birds tend to grow more slowly, meaning they have more flavour, more fat in their muscles and a better, firmer texture.

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