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Facts about turkeys: Can they outrun Olympic champion Usain Bolt?

New Hampshire Union Leader

November 21. 2012 10:46PM
A flock of about 20 wild turkeys cross Fairgrounds Road in Plymouth Monday morning in search of acorns. From a flock of 25 birds imported from the Allegheny Mountains in 1975, the state now has an estimated 40,000 birds from New Castle to Pittsburg. Every community in the state has a flock or more, according to Ted Walski, Fish and Game's turkey biologist. (Paula Tracy/Union Leader)

Usain Bolt, the world's fastest-known human, averaged 23.35 mph during his world-record 100 meters. He would not be able to beat an Eastern wild turkey, which can run up to 25 mph.

More turkey talk:

-- The domestic, farm-raised turkeys most Americans eat on Thanksgiving Day are nothing like the wild turkey feasted on by the Pilgrims and Native Americans. Wild turkeys rarely weigh more than 24 pounds, while domestic turkeys regularly grow to more than 40.

-- Most domestic turkeys are too heavy to fly. But wild turkeys have as many as 6,000 feathers and can fly as fast as 55 mph.

-- This year in New Hampshire, 3,873 turkeys were taken from farm and field by shotgun in the spring; another 621 were killed in the Oct. 15-19 gobbler shotgun season.

-- Archers have only been able to take 234 birds so far (the season runs into December) because they are hard to hit, notes Ted Walski the state's turkey biologist.

-- John Brasier of the National Wild Turkey Federation in Edgefield, S.C., said there are now almost 7 million wild turkeys in the country. That is up from 1.3 million in 1973, when the association began its work.

-- Wild turkeys can make at least 28 different vocalizations, with gobbles heard up to one mile away. They roost (sleep) in trees, often as high as 50 feet off the ground, and have much sharper vision than humans.

-- The federation discourages putting food on the ground for turkeys to eat, but encourages planting crops that will "become permanent food sources," Brasier said.

-- Those include crops that push through snow, such as corn, sorghum and wheat, as well as shrubs and small trees such as crab apple. Native grasses and various white and red clovers are good food sources before snow cover.

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Paula Tracy may be reached at


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