Thursday, November 28, 2013

Turkeys Purr

Photo by: Dimus, released by author to Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)
It's Thanksgiving in the United States, and many people are having turkey for dinner. When we think of sounds turkeys make, the gobble is usually the first one that comes to mind. We're most likely to hear gobble sound effects on television and radio in November, even though turkeys do most of their gobbling in spring during the mating season (it's how males announce their presence to females and to other males who may be encroaching on their territory). Even though the gobble is the most famous turkey sound, turkeys have a richer vocabulary. They also cluck, yelp, cackle, and perhaps most interestingly, they purr.

Unlike the gobble that can be heard from hundreds of yards away (it's said that it can sometimes even be heard from a mile away), the purr is a soft sound that can only be heard when close to the turkey. It doesn't sound quite the same as the purr of a cat, but it does sound a little like a cat's "trill." Click here if you'd like to hear it.

Both male and female turkeys purr, and they purr for one of the many reasons cats do - it's often a sign of contentment. Turkeys will also make the sound when eating, as a way to let each other know the fellow members of the flock are there (since they can't see each other very well when their heads are down picking up food).

There are a couple of variations to the purr. Sometimes turkeys will make a "cluck purr" when contented or when communicating with others in their flock. However, another purr has a completely different meaning. Turkeys will also purr when fighting! A turkey's fighting purr is louder and more continuous than the contented or communicating purr. Gobblers (males) aren't the only ones that fight-purr. Hens will do it as well if they're annoyed at another turkey.

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