Lets talk turkey


Show off your veterinary prowess and entertain Thanksgiving guests with fun facts about turkeys.

A Narragansett hen struts around Dr. Julie Gauthier's Chickcharney Farm.Julie Gauthier, DVM, MPH, DACVPM, finds turkeys charming. Especially this time of year as they strut around Chickcharney Farm, the 10 acres she devotes to heritage breed poultry conservation in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

“I love the fall-leaves are on the ground and the turkeys are looking glorious,” she told dvm360 last Thanksgiving.

As we give thanks once again this year, feel free to entertain the folks that gather around the Thanksgiving table with tales of Gauthier's turkeys' vocalizations and courtship rituals-isn't that what guests expect of veterinarians? It's only right to appreciate the unique qualities of the birds that grace our tables. After all, says

Gauthier, “they're really personable creatures.”

Here, Gauthier shares two vocalizations to know if you're ever magically transformed into a turkey and wish to stay out of trouble and keep with the flock:

1.Bring it on!

"Males (toms) make a cute-sounding 'purr' that seems very sweet until they attack each other. It's a sound of aggression."

2.Here I am-where are you?

"Hens 'bark' to each other when they're ranging in an unfamiliar area. They're excited and they keep the group together by sounding out their locations. Hens add a loud 'Wheat!' sound to the bark when a strange person (or dog) is around."

Get a room: The courtship rituals of turkeys

Turns out, domestic turkeys, like their wild brethren, have an elaborate courtship display, according to Gauthier. But it's a little one-sided.

“Actually, the hen doesn't display-the tom does all the work,” Gauthier says. “The tom struts with his tail feathers upright and spread wide. He holds his wings out and down like a posing bodybuilder and drags the tips of his colorful primary flight feathers on the ground. He inflates his crop to make his 'pecs' look enormous. Then, while holding that pose, he 'drums'-somehow using his muscles to 'bang' his inflated crop, making a low-pitched boom and at the same time rattling the whole plumage assembly. It sounds a bit like a large engine revving up a long way off.”

The hen's job? Yawn.

“The hen pretends that nothing happened and goes about her business,” Gauthier says. “If she's impressed, she'll nonchalantly walk off a little way, squat down and spread out her wings slightly to indicate willingness to mate."

Now you have what you need to offer the most interesting topic at the table, be forewarned, this witty turkey banter may have Thanksgiving guests so thoroughly entertained that one might proclaim: “That's hilarious! We should search for a turkey courtship video on Youtube!” Stop them. Do not search for turkey courtship videos on Youtube.


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