Can Turkeys Swim? (+What Are They Afraid Of)

At least once a year around Thanksgiving, people all over the United States and Canada are suddenly very interested in a bird that tends to be mostly ignored during the remainder of the year.

Whether you are simply interested in the habits of birds or are collecting some fun facts to share during Thanksgiving dinner, you might have wondered before:  

Can turkeys swim? Yes, they can, and they really like water! Researchers found that turkeys need water on a daily basis. Hens with chickens are never farther away than a quarter of a mile from the nearest water source and even adult turkeys never put more distance than half a mile between themselves and a body of water. While they mostly come to ponds and lakes to drink, they are actually quite good at swimming. They move through the water by tucking their wings close to their body for a streamlined shape, spreading their tails, and kicking. 

Since they can also run 12 mph and can fly with a speed of up to 50 mph, they are veritable triathletes of the animal kingdom. With all their talents, it is no surprise that turkeys once used to be worshipped and considered holy.

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The Mayans, which had one of the most advanced of early civilizations, had domesticated the turkey since at least 300 A.D. This bird could be found everywhere in their culture, which we can witness nowadays when looking at Mayan archaeological relics and hieroglyphic texts.

The turkey held a prominent place in Mayan iconography and pictures of turkeys, easily recognized by the snood (the protuberance hanging down from their forehead) and the wattle (the fleshy sack beneath on their neck) can be found, for example, on vases, and in codices.

There are a lot of mentions of turkeys in descriptions of rituals, some researchers even argue that the turkey was domesticated in the first place for the very purpose of taking part in religious ceremonies. 

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In Aztec mythology, there even was a god, Teszatlipoca, that sometimes took a turkey form. While Teszatlipoca is a rather evil god, when he takes his turkey form he was said to cleanse human beings of contamination and help them to overcome guilt. The priests of this god wore a headdress made with turkey feathers. 

What Are Turkeys Afraid Of? How Can I Keep Them Out Of My Garden? 

Can Turkeys Swim

As interesting as turkeys are, most people are not too happy when they find a flock of turkeys congregating in their drive or their backyard. Not only are these birds large and look intimidating, but they are also noisier than the usual small songbirds that people love to have around them.  

In certain seasons, wild turkeys come into suburban areas looking for food and mates or maybe a nice decorative pond to have a drink. These birds can quickly get used to food associated with humans like for example bird seeds. A preventative measure would therefore be to remove food sources like bird feeders or spilled garbage when you know that turkeys are in the area.

You should also discourage people in the neighborhood from feeding these birds because once they have learned that it is easy to come upon food at a certain place, they will come back in larger numbers. 

Can Turkeys Swim

Killing intruding turkeys to get rid of them is not only an unnecessarily cruel and hysterical reaction, but it is also useless in the end since other turkeys will replace the dead ones pretty quickly. Luckily, their scary and intimidating look notwithstanding, turkeys are actually quite timid creatures that you can scare away easily. 

To frighten them away you can make loud noises (like yelling or blowing a whistle), throw tennis balls at them, pop open an umbrella or shoot water at them from a hose or a squirt gun. Even such known fans of water as turkeys are, do not enjoy coming in contact with the element in this way! You can also invest in a motion-activated sprinkler for this purpose.  

If you want to keep wild turkeys from eating your vegetables you can protect your vegetable patch with hardware cloth. It is better to avoid to use netting since this will only trap animals, rather than keep them away. 

In general, when dealing with turkeys it is important that you do not show fear but establish dominance.