United Poultry Concerns
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3 November 2013
Turkeys Can Swim!

Turkeys are at home in every natural element: earth, air, and water. Here are some descriptions by Audubon and others of turkeys swimming, cited in A.W. Schorger, The Wild Turkey: Its History and Domestication, 1966:

Turkey swimming in a lake

Crossing a river: “The old and fat birds easily get over, even should the river be a mile in breadth; but the younger and less robust frequently fall into the water, - not to be drowned, however, as might be imagined. They bring their wings close to their body, spread out their tail as a support, stretch forward their neck, and striking out their legs with great vigour, proceed rapidly toward the shore; on approaching which, should they find it too steep for landing, they cease their exertions for a few minutes, float down the stream until they come to an accessible part, and by a violent effort generally extricate themselves from the water.” – John Jay Audubon, 1831.

Turkey swimming in a pool

“Poults [very young turkeys] swim surprisingly well. The attempted crossing of the Iowa River, where it was one hundred yards wide, by poults only a few days old, was witnessed. The hen flew across the river and, in response to her loud calls, twelve to fourteen young ran quickly down the bank and entered the water. Just before they reached the opposite bank the hen became frightened and, giving the alarm notes, flew back across the stream. The poults immediately turned back. On reaching the strongest part of the current, about half of them gave up and floated with the stream. These young were rescued from a boat and released after they became dry.”

In Alabama, “a hen was observed calling excitedly to two poults in the water. Their age was estimated at ten days. The water was at least one hundred yards wide. The hen had evidently flown across and was calling her poults to her.” Another observer reports coming upon “a pair of adult turkeys with six poults three or four days old. The birds scattered and one of the poults walked along a fallen tree extending into a pond. On reaching the end of the tree, it entered the water and swam a distance of about thirty yards to the opposite shore. When picked up, it was cold and exhausted.”


This family of wild turkeys shares the land with Gay Bradshaw and Jeff Borchers in Jacksonville, Oregon. Jeff took these pictures earlier in the summer and we're delighted and honored to share them with you.
Photos are courtesy of the Kerulos Center (www.Kerulos.org) of which Dr. G.A. Bradshaw is the Executive Director.


Eager to learn more about turkeys? Order More Than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and Reality by Karen Davis, PhD.

Order online. $14.95 includes shipping.

“Karen Davis shines a new light on the unfortunate, much-maligned bird that is the center of America’s Thanksgiving ritual, and thereby illuminates the lies and hypocrisy that surround our eating habits and our attitudes to animals. More Than a Meal challenges all Americans to think about the values they want their annual family ritual to embody.”
– Peter Singer, Author of Animal Liberation

Read our Turkeys Brochure to learn more.

More Than a Meal by Karen Davis, Ph.D.
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