Most turkey hunters are familiar with the basic of turkey behavior: they fly up in trees to roost and sleep, they call to each other, and they observe a hierarchy of dominance. So, we’re going to highlight some turkey behaviors that might be lesser known and observed. Check out the fun facts below for some turkey habits that might help you map out your first spring turkey hunt when the season opens in Minnesota on April 17.
Turkeys have been known to enjoy a dust bath when they feel like their feathers need some TLC. Wild turkeys will flap their wings in dust, stirring up dirt to cover all of their feathers. Others will simply crouch or lay in it. This process helps keep their feathers from getting oily and greasy while also encouraging any bugs living in their feathers to jump ship and find a new home. The dust suffocates any parasites on their bodies. It’s a flock activity that turkeys instinctively take part in from birth.
You might be surprised to learn that dirt baths aren’t the only spa-like experiences turkeys enjoy. Did you know that turkeys also like to sunbathe? Just add cucumber slices for their eyes and they’re good to go. They’ll lay on their side in the sun with one wing lifted up in the air and a leg stretched out, like a true Renaissance painting. The sun serves dual purposes much like the dirt baths. The sun helps evaporate oils and moisture from a rainy day and it also helps kill bacteria and upends bugs. There aren’t necessarily any pinpointed times of day that turkeys tend to dust and sunbathe, it’s periodically throughout the day, between feeding times.
Turkeys exhibit another bird behavior that indicates just how in-tune to the health of their feathers they are. The NWTF website notes that studies have found that turkeys will lay or rub their feathers on ant hills to encourage ants to walk across their skin and feathers. Now why in the world would they do that, you ask? The studies have found that birds and turkeys do this with about 24 different ant species and all of them have formic acid. Formic acid is thought to kill parasites as well as soothe irritated skin. They’ve noticed that they seek out ants more often during molting season in summer and fall, so the signs are there.
They Don’t Move Far
Turkeys travel a mile or two every day to seek out food and water. They’ll stay in the same radius indefinitely until pushed out by predators, overhunting, or lack of food. When this happens, they’ll travel outside their home turf to find other food sources, but until then, they’ll circle the same areas.
The next time you’re hunting turkeys out of one of our Stump blinds, keep an eye out for sunny spots or ant hills. You might just catch one in the middle of a spa day. If you do, you’ll be able to open your windows silently and take your shot opportunity once it presents itself. There’s no need to worry about the window creaking and making noise.
What unique behaviors have you observed with turkeys? Have you ever seen a turkey dusting or sunbathing? Let us know in the comments below!