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Wild Turkey Vision and Hearing

This Turkey Tuesday is about a combination of senses that undermines many a turkey hunter – the bird’s vision and hearing. They’re like the proverbial one-two punch! Wild turkeys have monocular periscopic vision, meaning that they view their world much differently than we do with the luxury of binocular vision. Turkeys more than compensate by having more photoreceptors in their eyes than we do, and their eyes are located on the sides of their heads, which allows a nearly 360 degree field of view. Tack onto their vision a keen, albeit interesting, sense of hearing and you have a recipe for a critter that has a solid command of what is happening around them. Although turkeys lack an external ear, the ear canal is clearly visible like in this picture. Interestingly, when a turkey hears sound, each ear detects the sound at different volumes – independently if you will – and sends that information to the brain. The bird is then able to process sounds in a way where they can determine direction and distance based on the different pieces of information sent. And because turkeys constantly turn their heads, even if ever so slightly, they use these head turns to nail down where sounds are coming from, and to pinpoint the source of movements around them. The take home is, turkeys have evolved senses of vision and hearing that allow them to avoid predation and create new ways of humbling us turkey hunters every spring.

© Tes Randle Jolly

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