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How Wild Turkeys Deal with Snow

This Turkey Tuesday is about how turkeys deal with snow and other winter weather extremes. Although severe winter weather can and does result in mortalities of turkeys in northern parts of their range, turkeys are resilient birds and have several strategies to deal with such weather. This group of hens recently photographed by Kayli Newkirk in Nebraska were dealing with quite a bit of snow, so how do turkeys make a living when winter weather throws them a curveball? One, they will concentrate their activities around consistent food sources, whether that be waste grains or even livestock feeding lots. Move less, stay close to high energy foods, and collect more energy than you burn. Two, turkeys use those powerful feet and legs to dig through snow, and the scales on their legs prevent heat loss while they’re obtaining food. Three, turkeys will spend more time on the roost during severe winter weather to conserve energy and avoid burning fat stores. Lastly, feathers – feathers are an amazing form of insulation and turkeys preen them to keep them in prime condition so they’re weatherproof. You also will see turkeys fluffing their feathers routinely during winter to trap air under them that is warmed by their bodies. If you’ve ever handled turkeys, even ones you’ve harvested, you likely noticed how their bodies effectively trap heat. The take home is, turkeys can readily live in some pretty hostile places that witness rough winter weather, which speaks to how adaptable they are as a species.

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