We are used to seeing our domestic turkeys walk in the backyard. Rarely do backyard turkeys fly but for some turkey breeds like the Midget white and Black Spanish, fence jumping is common. So, can turkeys fly?
What adaptation in birds that makes them able to fly or glide in the air? Perhaps this can help us know why they are able to float on air.
Although turkeys are big and heavy, some heritage breeds and wild turkeys can fly easily. Flying is a safety adaptation for game turkeys to evade predators and flee when they are frightened.
In this article, I am going to cover the topic Can turkeys fly so that I can clear doubt off your mind and help separate facts from fiction.
Do turkeys fly?
It is a myth that turkeys cannot fly. Wild turkeys can fly at 55MPH. The ones that do not fly are domestic turkeys because they are fat and raised for meat.
However, even the heritage turkeys we have at home some small species can fly over fences and roost on tree branches. This is common with small turkey breeds like the Black Spanish.
Maybe you have had a chance to see a turkey fly or perhaps heard someone tell a story about turkeys flying.
Can they really fly? If yes, for how long? Don’t wonder where to since they can choose to go where they want to.
How far can they fly?
It is true wild turkeys can fly. But they can only fly for about 100 yards. Mainly they fly when they notice a predator or hunters stalking them or when they want to roost on trees at night.
Turkeys will not fly for long distances like finches and other small birds do. They are heavy and their wings can only manage to keep them airborne for short distances.
Perhaps, this is why these birds are non migratory and choose to stick in a particular habitat for the rest of their lives.
During the day, wild turkeys spend much of their time on the ground looking for something to eat.
As night falls, they take shelter on top of trees to roost and hide from night predators that hunt them as food.
Wild turkeys are also adept swimmers and move in water by tackling their wings in close, spreading their tails and kicking. They can also run 12 miles an hour.
Do domestic turkeys fly?
Domestic turkeys don’t fly. Maybe your turkey managed to jump over the fence and pay a surprising visit to your garden or neighbors compound. Is it a heritage breed? Heritages can fly though for very short ranges.
Most domestic turkeys like the Broad breasted whites will not fly at all. This is due to their heavy weight and large breasts making them large and unable to take off.
Domestic turkeys are commercially raised making their thighs and breasts very large. Most farmers raise them for these parts because they are highly prized and fetch good money.
Their breasts gets stronger as the bird grows larger. This makes the birds power to mass ratio diminish such that they cannot flap strong enough to sustain flight.
In domestic turkeys, massive breast muscles also begins to stretch the tendons and ligaments that holds the bird together.
Shoulder joints gradually push apart, further paralyzing flight. For wild turkeys, in contrast, have strong and stable shoulder joints.
Farmers bred motivation to fly out of turkeys by keeping breeds that utilize every calorie of feed given to them. Confinement has also greatly discouraged and prevented turkeys from flying.
In modern farming techniques, most breeds are now being raised indoors in tiny enclosures. Here farmers don’t allow them to spread their wings or ever get a chance to fly.
This denies them the chance to exercise their flight muscles and practice the art of flying.
Turkeys raised on free range method can easily practice how to fly but don’t have the instincts. Farmers will never give them a chance as they will rush and clip their wing feathers.
Before any wild turkey takes off, it slightly squats, and then explodes upwards from its legs. This gets the process started.
Glycogen the energy carrying chemical that fuels turkey’s breasts during flight is quickly used up. That is why a wild turkey rarely flies more than 100 yards.
Studies shows that turkeys wings are highly cupped a trait in aerodynamics called camber. This enables quick take off.
Some farmers have bred domestic turkeys for fat breasts that they can no longer fly or even mate. They are too heavy to lift off and their flight muscles are not even up to the task.
Perhaps you saw your birds jump from their stroreyed coop. Maybe they mistook a window for an opening and glided out down for safety.