This Turkey Tuesday is about turkeys fighting – in this case, within groups of jakes. The knockdown, drag out fights that we often think of when we think about turkeys fighting often occur in early spring. However, turkeys of both sexes scuffle pretty much all year, and these contests are particularly common within groups of jakes as fall becomes winter. Turkeys use several forms of fighting, including posturing and wing flailing like in the 1st picture, and head pecking as seen in the 2nd picture. Head pecking is a very common behavior – it’s believed that turkeys at least partially recognize each other based on their heads, so it makes sense that fights would involve attacks to the head. Specific to jakes in the fall, one reason fights erupt is because these flocks are being formed as brood flocks dissolve. In other words, groups of jakes are slowly leaving flocks containing hens that hatched them, and they’re forming their own flocks – in many cases, with other birds they don’t know or recognize. So, as these jakes end up in flocks containing birds they don’t know, fights erupt to establish dominance and those fights will continue into spring. Research has shown that larger groups of jakes that leave brood flocks and enter these winter flocks are socially dominant over smaller groups – in other words, having more “buddies” in your group offers you a social advantage. The take home is, fall seems like a time of relative calm in the turkey world, but in reality, there is much occurring within the groups of birds we’re seeing. Anyone seeing groups of birds as they form winter flocks?
Pictures © Tes Randle Jolly