Close this search box.

When Toms Must Deal with Damaged or Missing Feathers

This Turkey Tuesday is about getting your tail in a pinch – in this case, when toms must deal with damaged or missing feathers when wearing your best suit matters. I read a quote once that said “looking good brings opportunities, so always dress well” – in the turkey world, the approach of spring has toms looking their best. To attract hens and be showy, it’s important to have a full complement of feathers that are well maintained, sleek, and iridescent. “Looking good” ensures that toms can optimize the chance that they’ll be able to secure breeding opportunities, which is known to be the single most important metric of lifetime fitness for toms. But what happens when Mother Nature throws toms a curveball that results in damage or loss of feathers? The tom in the 1st image from Stephen Spurlock has damaged tail feathers, and if the feather is damaged but continues to occupy the follicle, the feather will remain in place until the molt (which occurs after breeding season). Whether this creates issues for the bird relative to competing with other toms or attracting hens is unknown. But if the feather is completely pulled, the follicle is stimulated to grow a new feather and although this process begins quickly, it takes weeks to complete. You can see this in the 2nd picture from Tes Jolly where this tom is regrowing the feathers on the outer part of the tail. In some extreme cases, toms attacked by predators may have damage or loss of many tail feathers, like the tom in the 3rd image from Joe Foster that survived an attack by a mountain lion! Such significant feather loss would logically create minor challenges for flight since turkeys use their tails to help steer them during flight. The take home is, although it’s important to wear your best suit, sometimes life throws toms a few curveballs that makes doing so a bit complicated.

Share via:


Popular Posts