What Is a Jake Turkey?

Jennifer C./CC-BY-2.0

A jake is a young male wild turkey that can be distinguished from an adult, or tom, by the length of its middle tail feathers. The adult males will have tail feathers that are all the same length, while the younger males will have noticeably longer feathers in the middle. The adult males also have a much longer beard, which is the cluster of hair-like feathers growing from the center of its breast.

Adult male wild turkeys are also called gobblers because of the distinctive sound they make to announce their presence to females, or hens, in early spring. The gobble sound can carry up to a mile. Hens can produce the gobble sound also but do so rarely. Jakes will often yelp in a manner similar to hens.

Adult males may attempt to fight a predator if cornered. Some of the larger toms can display an especially aggressive behavior in self-defense that may deter even mid-sized predatory mammals. A male wild turkey’s head turns blue when excited, and will become red when it is ready to fight. Turkeys can, on occasion, become aggressive towards humans. Attacks and minor injuries can be avoided by giving wild turkeys a suitable amount of space and leaving their natural habitats undisturbed.