Mating season for turkeys is typically triggered with increased day length in springtime and the hormonal changes that take place as a result.
Finding mates in the turkey community is hardly romantic. Turkeys are polygamous and there is a clear pecking order.
Turkeys are flock animals. But when mating season begins, the flock usually splits into smaller groups.
A UC Berkeley study shows that wild male turkeys operate using cooperative courtship between dominant and subordinate males. These males are usually genetically connected as full or half brothers.
When the male turkeys spot a female, both the dominant and subordinate turkeys go through the typical rituals to attract her. This includes fanning their feathers and dragging their wings. But the dominant turkey will strut and make noise to entice the female while his brother, the subordinate, acts as a support by keeping the area clear of competition.
No Fowl Play
This practice is not merely altruistic for the subordinate brother. The UC Berkeley study suggests that for a smaller male turkey, the best way to ensure his own genetics pass on to the next generation of turkeys is by supporting the courtships of his dominant brother.
The study found that a dominant male operating in a team produced on average, seven offspring throughout a mating season. A lone male turkey in the study produced less than one.
Not Just for Turkeys
Other animals practice various types of cooperative courtship. Pairs of lance-tailed manakins, a bird found in Central and South America, perform a complicated dance together when a female approaches. Once she expresses interest, the socially submissive bird bows out.
Certain bats in New Zealand forests also perform types of cooperative courtship. The bats stake out small hollows in trees and sing in the night to attract females. Some bats inhabit a space and sing alone. But others share a roost and take turns singing and using the roost throughout the night.
Sharing a roost means it is continuously inhabited, keeping the territory secure for those sharing the space.
Sources And Further Reading:
- Baggaley, Kate. “Meet the Birds That Work as Wingmen for Other Males.” Popular Science. February 09, 2018. Accessed May 31, 2018.
- Darwin, Kenny. “Understanding Turkey MATING RITUALS.” Welcome to Woods and Water. April 1, 2014. Accessed May 31, 2018.
- Gray, Richard. “The Secret to Attracting Females Lies in a Good Wingman – in Turkeys at Least.” The Telegraph. August 15, 2013. Accessed May 31, 2018.
- Nosowitz, Dan. “Everything You Want To Know About Turkey Sex.” Modern Farmer. November 16, 2016. Accessed May 31, 2018.
- Sanders, Robert. “03.02.2005 – Male Wild Turkeys Benefit by Helping Brothers Mate.” UC Berkeley. Accessed May 31, 2018.
- “Turkey Biology FAQ.” Endangered and Threatened. Accessed May 31, 2018.
- “Wild Turkey Lifestyle & Breeding.” National Wild Turkey Federation. Accessed May 31, 2018.
- Zielinski, Sarah. “14 Fun Facts About Turkeys.” Smithsonian.com. November 15, 2012. Accessed May 31, 2018.