How Can You Tell the Difference Between a Female and Male Turkey?

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The easiest way to tell male and female turkeys apart is by looking at their feathers. Female turkeys (hens) have brown or gray feathers, while male turkeys (gobblers) have brightly colored feathers. If one can only see the head of a turkey, they should see a nearly featherless head on the male and a slightly feathered head on the female.

The appearance of a female turkey is based on this bird’s need to be camouflaged. Their drably colored feathers make it easy for them to hide while nesting. Males, in contrast, have red, green, and gold feathers so that they can be noticed by the females for mating.

Both female and male turkeys have tails that are 12 to 15 inches long, but only male turkeys fan their tails. They also do this while trying to attract a mate. Both sexes have reddish-orange legs and feet, but male turkeys have spurs near the base of their legs. Used to establish their dominance, spurs can be up to 2 inches long.

If one sees a beard on a turkey, it indicates that the turkey is probably a male — about 10 to 20 percent of female turkeys also grow beards. Regardless of whether the turkey is male or female, the beard can be up to 18 inches long with an average length of nine inches.