How Do Male and Female Turkeys Differ?

Male and female turkeys may look similar at the distance, but they can be distinguished by size, by the presence or absence of spurs and beards, the brilliance of color, the size of wattles and many other factors. In general the male, or tom, turkey is larger than the female, or hen, has more colorful wattles and darker plumage, and it will gobble, while hens do not make the characteristic sound.

Distinguishing wild turkeys by sex is important during hunting season when many states leave only toms as legal targets. While toms are larger and have darker plumage as compared to the dull, light plumage of hens, this is often not enough to make reliable distinctions.

Gobbling is considered a sure sign that a turkey is a tom. Hens do not gobble at all. Toms are also much more likely to fan out their tails and puff out their chests and beards in display, a behavior which hens are very seldom seen to display.

In tracking a tom, their prints can be identified by whether or not they are larger than three inches from claw to claw. Toms also leave J-shaped droppings while hens leave their droppings in piles or spiral loops, making turkey scat easy to distinguish.