Wild Turkeys Aren't Just for Thanksgiving

Turkey will probably be on the menu for your Thanksgiving feast, but these birds aren’t just a source of food for us. They’re our neighbors too.

Photo via Shutterstock

Wild turkeys are very similar to the domesticated turkeys that are raised on farms to serve as food for us. The wild birds live all across the United States, usually in forests or grassy areas near forests.


An estimated 150,000 wild turkeys live in Illinois, in every county in the state. Here’s some more information about these large birds that we may see in our very own neighborhoods.


Fun Facts

  • Wild turkeys usually get around on foot, but they are actually strong fliers.

  • A male turkey is called a tom, and a female is called a hen. Baby turkeys are called chicks or poults.

  • Wild turkeys often live in or near forests, and they especially like nut trees because they can eat the nuts.

  • Turkeys are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. They mostly eat plant material, such as grass, leaves, acorns and seeds, but they also eat insects, spiders and small animals such as frogs and lizards.

  • Wild turkeys are big birds, and males are much larger than females. Males can weigh between 18 pounds and 24 pounds, while females weigh between 8 pounds and 12 pounds.

  • Wild turkeys do not migrate south each fall and winter. They stay in the same location all year.

  • Wild turkeys often roost in trees at night.

  • The flap of skin that hangs down from a turkey’s chin is called a wattle, and it can be red, blue or white, or a combination of those colors. Both males and females have wattles, but they are much larger in males.