Learning About Turkeys, A Turkey Activity For Kids

TurkeyTime to learn about turkeys!

Turkeys travel in flocks.  They live in wooded areas mostly, and spend much of their time searching the ground for food – nuts, berries, insects, and snails.  They really like mature forests with nut trees like oaks and hickories.  At night, turkeys fly up into trees to roost in groups, but other than that, they don’t spend much time up in trees like other birds do.

Most people think turkeys can’t fly, but that’s not true.  They can actually fly quite quickly, though their large size makes it difficult for them to go long distances.  They fly up to those trees to roost at night though, so they most definitely can fly.

We probably think turkeys can’t fly because we are imagining those farm-raised, fattened up turkeys that will sit on our Thanksgiving tables – they have been fed so much that they have about as much chance of flying as you do after your last slice of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.

This is my crazy husband Bob over a decade ago with my then toddler, Tyler, and our Thanksgiving Turkey.  Not sure why we thought a "catch of the day" Thanksgiving photo was appropriate.  I also certainly don't miss that tiny apartment or the yellow appliances!
This is my crazy husband Bob over a decade ago with my then toddler, Tyler, and our Thanksgiving Turkey. Not sure why we thought a “catch of the day” Thanksgiving photo was appropriate. I also certainly don’t miss that tiny apartment or the yellow appliances!

Long ago turkeys were abundant, but they were hunted really heavily (probably because they’re a pretty easy target with a lot of meat payoff as far as birds go!). Wild turkeys almost became extinct in the 1930’s, but they are making a comeback now.

Fun Facts About Turkeys

  • Eating turkey really can make you tired.  Turkey (and all other meats) contain tryptophan, an amino acid which triggers the production of seratonin.  Your Thanksgiving yawns probably also come just from a big day full of too much food.  You would feel just as tired if you ate all the same stuff with roast beef instead of turkey.
  • Turkeys have excellent vision.  Because their eyes are on the sides of their heads they have a huge peripheral range of sight.
  • That weird flap of skin that hangs over a turkey’s beak is called a snood.  Use it in Scrabble and amaze your friends.
  • Turkeys actually blush!  When they are angry, frightened, or emotional, the skin on their head can change colors.
  • Turkeys swallow small stones that they keep in their stomach to help them break down food since they don’t have teeth.

A Turkey For All Seasons Activity

We only think about turkeys in the fall when Thanksgiving approaches, but there are wild turkeys living out there all year long.  You can observe the seasons in turkeys, in fact.

Can you tell what time of year it is by observing turkeys?  Print out this A Turkey For All Seasons page and make a scene for each season showing what turkeys are doing during that time of year.

A Turkey For All Seasons

 

Turkeys in Spring

 Turkey Eggs in a Nest Did you know that only males make a gobble sound?  Female hens cluck and chirp, but they don’t gobble.  In early spring, males gather in clearings to perform courtship displays. They puff up their body feathers, fan out their tails, gobble, and strut.  Speaking of gobbling, did you know that only males make that gobble sound?  Female hens cluck and chirp, but they don’t gobble.  Male and female turkeys are together in the spring so they can mate. Later on the female will lay eggs in an open field or on the edge of the woods – never in a tree like other birds.  In the spring, turkey eggs hatch from their nest!  Turkey eggs are bigger than chicken eggs.  In the spring box, draw a nest of eggs on the ground.

Turkeys in Summer

Baby TurkeyIn the summer time turkeys are mostly hatching and then caring for their babies.  Like other birds, the mothers sit on the nests to keep them warm.  After about a month the babies hatch and then they begin learning how to care for themselves. Within a day they are already looking for insects and berries to eat.  Turkeys like open areas during the day, and protected woodlands to roost in at night.  They eat early in the mornings and again in late afternoon.  Draw a baby turkey in the summer box.

Turkeys in Autumn

 

TurkeyDuring the fall you will see some flocks of turkeys are grouped by age and sex. The turkeys will be eating seeds in preparation for the long winter when food can be scarce.  They are working to fatten themselves up to prepare for the long winter ahead when there won’t be as much to eat.  This is the time when farm-raised turkeys are usually killed.  They are young, but already large.  Turkeys will be full grown by 6 months, and sometimes even younger than that.  Imagine going from an egg to weighing 40 pounds in 6 months – for farm-raised birds it happens all the time.  Wild turkeys have to work harder for their food though.  They don’t get quite that big that fast.  In your autumn box draw a big, fat adult turkey.

Turkeys in Winter

Turkey TracksIn winter one can often find turkey tracks in clearings or on the edge of the woods.  They are foraging for any food they can find.  Turkeys are pretty hardy birds, but winter is still about just one thing – survival.  They can withstand temperatures below zero, will eat almost anything they can find, and continue to live in flocks, segregated by both sex and age.  They spend most of their time searching for food, scratching at the ground and pecking at branches.  They stay in the woods more in the winter because of the protection.  The bugs and grasses they found in the fields during summer are all buried in snow now anyway.  Soon it will be spring again, and if they survive the winter, they will looking for a mate.  Most turkeys in the wild live to be about 3 or 4 years old, so they will repeat this cycle several times.

Additional Layers:

  • Ben Franklin was definitely a turkey fan.  He wanted to make it our national bird.  He said, “For my own part, I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country; he is a bird of bad moral character; he does not get his living honestly…like those among men who live by sharping and robbing…he is generally poor, and often very lousy. Besides, he is a rank coward; the little king-bird, not bigger than a sparrow, attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district…For in truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America. Eagles have been found in all countries, but the turkey was peculiar to ours…”  Draw your own Great Seal, but with a turkey in place of the eagle.  {hee!  hee!}
  • Turkeys have two stomachs.  Do some online research and find out what other animals have more than one stomach.
  • We aren’t really sure that the pilgrims even ate turkey at the first Thanksgiving.  Governor Bradford did mention hunting turkeys that year, but they weren’t actually mentioned in regards to the 3 day feast that we now call the First Thanksgiving.  We do know they ate venison though.  Read more about the First Thanksgiving.

 

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