Photo Gallery: Weird Looking Turkeys and Odd Bird Behavior

Have You Seen These Turkeys While Hunting?

Optical Illusion?Amazing Old 20 FeathersSiblings?Patriotic TomRed PhaseBoss HenBearded LadyGender Confusion?He-SheKeep AwayTurkey Disease

1 | Optical Illusion?

Optical illusion? This mature Eastern strutter exhibits a unique cream-colored tone when displaying. 

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

2 | Amazing

Amazingly, from a different angle, this is the same bird as in the previous slide and appears totally different with feathers flattened and walking away. 

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

3 | Old 20 Feathers

A gobbler’s tail fan averages 18 feathers. One of my favorite gobblers ever to photograph was "Old 20 Feathers." With the extra two feathers, his fan was as impressive as his oversized head and body. 

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

4 | Siblings?

Look closely at both gobblers’ primary wing feathers. Note the solid black feathers in each. I wondered if they were siblings.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

5 | Patriotic Tom

Patriotic tom? A gobbler’s major and minor caruncles range from white to red. In 20 years of photographing wild turkeys, this is the first tom I’ve photographed with engorged caruncles striped vertically red and white.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

6 | Red Phase

A once-in-a-lifetime trophy, this mature, erythristic (red phase) Eastern gobbler was tagged by a lucky hunting friend in western Kentucky.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)


7 | Boss Hen

Strutting her stuff! No doubt who’s boss here. This dominant hen displays her status to a nearby hen.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

8 | Bearded Lady

The long “Bearded Lady.” Bearded hens are not that uncommon, though it’s often wispy and bent. This Alabama hen sports an impressive one!

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

9 | Gender Confusion?

Gender confusion? What do you call a turkey with a hen’s head, and a gobbler’s body? This weird bird lacked a beard and spurs. The tiny snood (note the extra long hairs) and caruncles were noticeably under-developed.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

10 | He-She

“He-She” from the previous slide definitely possessed the hormones of a gobbler, though repeated attempts to mate with a DSD hen decoy proved fruitless. Probably a good thing.

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

11 | Keep Away

Catch me if you can. Young turkeys are like young of all species, playful and silly at times. I’ve witnessed this game of “keep away” with grass or straw a few times, and chuckle at their antics each time. 

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

12 | Turkey Disease

According to Certified Wildlife Biologist, Bob Eriksen, who also pens NWTF’s Turkey Country magazine “Ask Dr. Tom” column, this sad-looking old tom, “Appears to be infected with either avian pox or Lymphoproliferative Disease Virus (LPDV), or both viral diseases. Mosquitos and other biting insects transmit the viruses from one bird to another and a wild turkey could possibly acquire the virus from a mosquito that drew blood from another species of bird. Social interaction such as fighting (and we all know that turkeys often engage in fights) may also allow the diseases to be transmitted.”

(Tes Randle Jolly photo)

Editor's note: Check with your state wildlife agency's website, as many across the country have a system for reporting such wild turkeys to the authorities.

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This photo gallery was first published May 19, 2017.