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Strutting

This Turkey Tuesday is about strutting, a behavior cherished by all turkey hunters. Although we all know that toms strut, it’s interesting that hens and poults also strut. Strutting is a highly coordinated movement often believed to be focused on attracting hens, where the bird fans their tail, makes a few quick steps, spreads their wings, and often drags the wing tips on the ground. But why do hens and poults also strut? As you can see in this first image, there is an adult hen strutting just like the toms beside her, and there’s also records of hens gobbling. We suspect that hens strut to display dominance over other hens, but perhaps there’s more to the behavior that we don’t understand. Research has also shown that poults start strutting within days of hatching, like the poult in this second picture taken by David McCleaf. Strutting by poults seems to be associated with playing, as work years ago noted that a single poult would perform behaviors associated with both sexes, such as strutting and crouching to be bred, in rapid succession. In fact, Bill Healy noted in his work with imprinted poults that not only would they strut, but they’d also make sounds associated with what we as turkey hunters refer to as drumming, and their feathers would also clearly vibrate! The take home is, strutting is something we often think of when it comes to toms, but in reality, the behavior appears to be something that all turkeys partake in at some point in their lives whether as poults or adults, or both.

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