This Turkey Tuesday is about strutting and displaying by toms – but during winter, not spring. Us turkey hunters see toms strutting around hens, and our minds instantly envision spring mornings when breeding is occurring. But in reality, toms will strut periodically throughout the year, particularly during winter – like the toms in this picture. The impetus to display comes partially from increases in testosterone, which during winter, can occur as toms display to each other – not really to hens per se. During fall and winter, toms displaying in the presence of hens have other motives besides simply impressing the ladies – dominance and social status. Displaying toms can size each other up well before breeding season approaches, using cues such as head ornamentation, body size, and attitude to determine whether attempting to disrupt the pecking order makes sense. In other words, through displays in the weeks leading up to spring, toms can figure out if it’s worth fighting with other toms in their social group. If you think about it, understanding your chances of winning a fight before picking one would sure help your decision-making! The take home is, the displaying we often see during winter is more complex than making an impression on hens. These toms are putting on a show to also test each other, size each other up, and ultimately challenge the pecking orders that structure the flocks we enjoy seeing during winter and beyond.
© Tes Randle Jolly