Can Turkeys Fly? Myth or Reality

Gobble Gobble! Turkeys are often synonymous with the Fall season and the Thanksgiving holiday. This unique species of bird is just not for Thanksgiving.

However, the reality is that turkeys get their 15 minutes of fame around this time of the year. It is truly criminal that we ignore turkeys for the rest of the seasons.

When it comes to flying, the star of the Thanksgiving meal has an interesting story.

Most turkey admirers question whether they can fly or not. It is important for hunters to know if turkeys can fly or not before taking the shot.

There are many myths and common misconceptions regarding the turkey’s ability to fly. As per many myths, turkeys can not go up the skies as they feed on the ground.

If you are planning on raising turkeys, it would be better to get prior information about their flying capabilities, so, you can build the coop accordingly.

These are large fowls that we do not see flying through the sky like some other birds. There could be a lot of reasons for this which we would get to later but first, can turkeys fly?

Can Turkeys Fly?

The answer is both yes and no, some turkeys can fly while others do not. Turkeys can fly, well, sometimes, having large, muscular breasts inhibit their ability to fly.

Their stocky bodies do not help them easily take flight.

They forage on the ground, that’s why most people believe they can not run. Whether turkeys can fly or not depends on the type as well.

When it comes to turkey’s flying capabilities, the answer is different for domestic and wild turkeys.

Domestic Turkeys

Domestic turkeys can be classified as flightless birds. They are larger than the wild turkeys, therefore, heavier build influences their flying.

The wide-breasted commercial white turkeys are less likely to walk properly, let alone, fly. However, the Heritage Turkey breeds have a better chance of taking a flight.

Unlike wild turkeys, domestic turkeys are raised for meat production, therefore, they do not have to thrive for food.

Nor do they have to protect themselves from predators, in short, they are not evolved to fly.

Farmed turkeys get too big and high to fly up in the sky. Poultry feeders make them grow fast and gain weight quickly.

Domestic turkeys, being heavier, can not balance their weight while flying. As the turkey breasts get larger or stronger, their power-to-mass ratio diminishes, so sustained flight is not possible for them.

They can not even walk without difficulty, more likely failing in the first attempt at flying.

Wild Turkeys

Wild turkeys are free-roaming birds, they can indeed fly in short, powerful bursts. While the domestic turkeys are most probably never airborne, wild turkeys can fly, however, not fast or high enough as other birds.

Wild turkeys are arboreal which means they reside in trees. The only time they are seen on the ground is when they have to eat.

This may have led many people to believe that they can not fly but as per the Department of Environmental Conservation, wild turkeys can fly at a speed of 55 miles per hour.

They fly to the treetops to settle and roost at night. Turkeys of the wild like to rest on high perches and canopy tops.

These birds run and fly in a panic to escape predators and reach safety. Their broad wings and thin neck help them fly to a significant distance but not high enough.

Wild turkeys fly low to the ground, taking frequent breaks to reach their destination. They only attempt longer flights in case of danger and seasonal changes.

Moreover, wild turkeys have sleek body makeup, a wily nature, and an instinctive escape response that assists in flying.

Wings of Turkey

Both wild and domesticated turkeys have wings that wild turkeys use to fly short distances whereas domestic turkeys do not use their wings at all for flying.

As flying habits have been bred out of them, therefore, these wings are useless for domestic turkeys. Their feathers are mostly for show exhibiting different patterns.

Wings of wild and domesticated turkeys are highly cambered meaning that they have appreciable curvature from the leading edge to the trailing feathers.

This curvature is better suited for near-the-ground situations. These wings help only when the birds need a great lift in a short period.

Farmed turkeys have more meat in the thighs and breasts, so, these parts weigh more than their wings can support.

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Are Turkeys Good Fliers?

As you know that this famously awkward bird can fly but they are not as good fliers as other birds. It is not easy for them to fly for a long time and cover large distances.

Wild or traditional turkeys can fly well to long trees to roost, or fly away at an alarming rate to protect themselves from predators. Learn Do Turkeys Fight to the Death?

How Fast Can A Turkey Fly?

Wild turkeys have powerful legs, therefore, a running speed of 25 miles per hour, just a little bit less than Usain Bolt’s top speed.

According to the research of the University of California, Their highest flying speed is 55 miles per hour. The flight speed can reach 60 mph or 97 kph. Wild turkeys fly for short bursts and quickly land on the ground.

Domestic turkeys can not fly because they are double the weight of wild turkeys.

Since they use their breast muscles to fly, the heavier breast muscles of domestic turkeys do not let them fly. Unlike wild turkey birds, domestic gobblers can not even fly for short bursts.

How Far Can Turkeys Fly?

Well, do not expect these birds to cover miles, it is just not possible, even for wild turkeys. Wild Thanksgiving birds are better at flying explosive short distances, just enough to escape predators and reach high perches.

They can barely fly more than 100 yards before landing on the ground, however, it is enough to bring them to safety or the treetops.

Wild turkeys feed on the ground, so there is a high risk of encountering predators and humans.

They can either fly or run to save themselves, mostly, turkeys choose the latter option. They can easily outrun humans and many predators.

How High Can Turkeys Fly?

Once the turkeys are airborne, their wings get power from their breast muscles. The chest muscle of the wild turkey helps them fly higher to cover more distance.

They fly for short bursts with a speed of up to 55 mph. Wild turkeys are agile and faster than their domestic counterparts.

They can fly as high as 400 meters or a quarter-mile to reach the canopy top.

Wild turkeys roost on treetops at a height of 20 to 30 feet. Their flying ability helps them reach traditional roosting sites within seconds.

Do Baby Turkeys Fly?

Baby turkeys or poults are too weak to fly in the first few weeks. They need some time to get used to the outside world and eat proper food before taking flight.

Depending on the care and protection, baby turkeys can not fly for about the first four weeks.

They usually start flying in the fifth week and like their ancestors, start to sit on trees to roost.

How Long Can Turkeys Stay Airborne?

As you know, wild turkeys can make a good flight but can their wings support sustained flight? Unfortunately no, they can take flights but it usually does not last long.

Turkey uses its own chemical to fly as the breast muscle can not endure long flights, therefore, they have a shorter flight time.

Glycogen is the energy carrier chemical that gives a turkey strength to stay in the air or maintain flight.

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Do Turkeys Prefer Flying or Running?

Whenever these birds feel threatened or find themselves in a dangerous situation, their first instinct is to run.

Though they can fly, turkeys are better runners. They only fly shorter distances before returning to the ground. Most of their life is spent on their feet.

Their body has a squashed shape with knees pulled ahead and legs splayed. This makes the legs more powerful, as the circulation is the highest, more fuel for running. Though wild turkeys can fly, still, they prefer spending most of their time on the ground.

Why Do Only Wild Turkeys Fly?

Domestic turkeys struggle to fly whereas the wild gobblers use their breast muscles to fly. The breast muscle powers the turkey’s wings to assist them in flying. That’s why wild turkeys have darker meat.

With the help of their powerful legs, they launch safely into the air, their wings are capable of taking rapid, short flights. On the contrary, domestic turkeys are heavier with no bred-in characteristics for flying.

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Conclusion

Wild Turkeys whereas the domestic or Thanksgiving turkeys are so fattened up on the farm that they lose their ability to fly. Besides a few feeble flaps, they are restricted by their size. Wild turkeys have sleek, thinner body structures and a wild nature allowing them to soar high. They can fly as high as 400 meters with flight speed up to 55 mph.

  • Hi, I am Talon Juper, a passionate farmer, and Livestock Expert. I have done my graduation in Agriculture and Animal breeding. Relevant to Farm Desire as a research writer and data recorder.

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