Video: Wild Turkeys, Birds of Courage

Candice Gaukel Andrews November 28, 2013 12

Benjamin Franklin believed that turkeys were respectable and courageous birds. ©Bob Leggett

In theatrical circles, a “turkey” is a failure or a flop, but nothing could be further from the truth in the natural world. In fact, wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are North America’s largest game birds and were considered by one of our nation’s forefathers, Benjamin Franklin, to be superior to the country’s national emblem, the bald eagle.

It seems Franklin was on to something: wild turkeys are fearless. They will confront and chase anyone—or anything—they consider to be a potential threat. Although the daringness has been largely bred out of domesticated turkeys, anyone who has encountered a wild turkey quickly learns that it is not to be trifled with—especially if you’re in a mail truck.

Recently, a TV news producer in Texas found out about wild turkeys firsthand. After hearing neighbors’ stories of the birds chasing down joggers and people with strollers in an Arden area neighborhood, Duffy Kelly went out with her camera to get the story on film. Watch the hilarious video below, in which Kelly finds out just how tenacious wild turkeys can be.

On June 20, 1782, a year and a half after the Great Seal was adopted by Congress with the bald eagle as its centerpiece—a process that took Congress six years—Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter with his thoughts about this new, bird-emblem of America:

“I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America … . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

I think I know of at least one reporter and a mail carrier who would agree.

Have a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving,




  1. Harish Panchal December 3, 2013 at 4:51 am - Reply

    NICE I love this

  2. Mark Wilson December 2, 2013 at 11:34 am - Reply

    I’m sure Kevin is right about the damage Turkeys can do, but regardless of the actual risk of injury, being attacked by a bird can be far more unsettling than can be justified purely by the danger of bodily harm. I’ve been dive-bombed by harriers, terns and gulls, and have seen friends and colleagues be attacked by all these species, and invariably people’s reactions seem out of proportion to the physical threat these birds present. Some people are even phobic of (particularly flapping) birds. I reckon that a fear of attacking birds may well be hard-wired into us – maybe from days when our smaller primate ancestors were sometimes preyed on by large raptors??

    Anyway, thanks for posting the video, hugely entertaining!

  3. Kevin Pack December 2, 2013 at 10:46 am - Reply

    Actually a wild turkey can inflict quite a bit of damage, if you have ever seen cocks fight imagine that with a bird weighing as much as 25 pounds and spurs as long a 2 inches and as sharp as a knife.

    I have seen turkey beat off a coyote and fox, and remember unlike your Thanksgiving feast a wild turkey can fly and is actually quite good at it.

    So imagine a twenty pound bird hovering over your head beating you with his wings and spurring you around the head, back and neck as well as racking you with those 1 inch plus spurs will it kill you probably not will it do a lot of damage, well, after watching that turkey rake the coyote and leave very noticeable blood trails along its back head and flanks I think I will leave the fact finding to someone else.

  4. Ella Jeans December 1, 2013 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    Thankfully the turkeys up here are afraid of us and rarely come close…. and yet I’ve heard stories of turkeys becoming so attached to families that they end up moving into their barns and acting like they are part of the human families.

  5. Roger Harris December 1, 2013 at 9:35 am - Reply


    Thank you for all your hard work posting quality blog articles to this page! Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. Jim Flowers December 1, 2013 at 9:31 am - Reply

    They’re especially dangerous this month folks! “It’s a REVENGE thingy!!!”

  7. Candice Gaukel Andrews December 1, 2013 at 9:30 am - Reply

    Great question and answer, Professor Chattopadhyay and Marion. Thank you! — C.G.A.

  8. Marion Helms December 1, 2013 at 9:28 am - Reply

    Prof. Parthasarathi Chattopadhyay, turkeys are not big enough to inflict very serious wounds to adults, but, I would not leave very small children in a place a wild turkey could get to them.
    The wounds may not be fatal, but, they could be painful.
    I am sure in the right situation a turkey could put out an eye or draw blood from a scratch or a peck on a soft part of a body.
    I have seen several videos where deer, elk, and buffalo have injured or killed people, and a friend of mine was attacked by a moose and later died from the injuries!
    Geese can give a pretty painful bite and have been known to beat people with their wings.
    8 ) God bless y’all!!

  9. Russell Donnelly December 1, 2013 at 9:27 am - Reply

    Hello; This lady could have made a friend for life with a big cup of BIRD SEED. my thought is that the turkey was merely curious; or something olfactorial attracted this fine specimen of a proud North American species. I don’t believe the bird was ill or had negative intentions; although it is somewhat strange that a wild turkey would be that social with a human; normally they are very reclusive. Still; if the bird had intentions; I don’t believe they were violent; elsewise the woman would have been heavily pecked during the time frame of this video clip. My last thought is that the woman overreacted and acting in the panicked fashion she did; aroused more interest from the bird. The birds vocals were rather subdued not voracious. This woman could have made a valuable friend.

  10. Karen Ciresi December 1, 2013 at 9:25 am - Reply

    That was so entertaining, Candice!!! So funny – although Im sure you didn’t think so at the time! I was once “attacked” by a turkey that a friend had on their farm, that was overly protective, I think – or just singled me out as someone he didn’t like! Several years ago, at our local Zoo’s petting farm, their male turkey liked to jump on your feet and unlace your sneakers! What a hoot!!

  11. Patricia Jansen December 1, 2013 at 9:24 am - Reply

    LOL !

  12. PROF. PARTHASARATHI CHATTOPADHYAY November 29, 2013 at 8:35 am - Reply

    Turkeys are courageous birds. They are inquisitive too. Perhaps, it is this quality or characteristic that drags them close to humans. In this footage, a wild turkey has displayed its enough courage to chase the photographer away (to protect its territorial right) while the last part of the footage shows how inquisitive it is of an intruder (here the photographer) who scrambled to the safety of a car.
    Madam Candice, I’ve one simple question: Whether turkeys can inflict /or do serious injury (even a fatal one) by kicking as do the ostriches?

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