Caruncle my snood, let's talk turkey

NATURAL WORLD

PAUL GAY
Last updated 16:12 02/09/2014
Southland Times photo
Interesting rather than attractive, a turkey’s head has a caruncle and a snood.

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Turkeys have been in New Zealand since 1890. Originally most were farmed along with domestic hens and ducks. Inevitably though, some escaped and became small populations of wild birds in different parts of the country.

Male turkeys are usually called toms and females are known as hens.

Baby turkeys are "poults" and a group of turkeys is called a flock.

As this photograph shows, a turkey head is not the most attractive head in the bird world. It is nevertheless interesting.

Notice the reddish, fleshy stretches of skin and the bubble- like areas around the neck. This is known as a caruncle. Then there's the long fleshy flap that hangs down across the beak. It's called a snood. In the breeding season these parts swell up and can turn a bright red.

The eyes are located on opposite sides of the head and so they can see two objects at once.

The ears, seen just behind the eyes show as small hairy holes. They provide a keen sense of hearing and it's recorded that the turkey can pinpoint sounds from over two kilometres away.

They are alert birds and wild turkeys can be difficult to approach.

Males are often called gobblers because of their famous call. It's a loud shrill noise descending to a throaty jumble of sound. They use it in similar ways to a rooster's crow - to define territory and attract hens.

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- The Southland Times

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