Need to Know the Sex of a Wild Turkey? Look at Its Poop

Kirk Thornton, Unsplash
Kirk Thornton, Unsplash / Kirk Thornton, Unsplash

This is the time of year when people are asking a lot of turkey-related questions, like what size turkey will feed my family? and how long does it take to cook one? If you've only dealt with turkeys at the supermarket, how to determine the sex of the bird is a question you may have never thought to ask. You may not need the information in real life, but the answer does make for an interesting Thanksgiving conversation topic—just wait until after dinner to bring it up.

According to Discover Magazine, you can tell male and female wild turkeys apart by looking at their poop. This is a byproduct of the bird's cloaca, or the multipurpose orifice used for both waste disposal and reproduction.

In female turkeys, this tract is stretchy and spacious to accommodate any eggs that pass through it. When females expel their droppings (which contain both urine and feces), the matter has room to swirl into a coil shape.

The size and shape of the male cloaca is a bit different. Because they don't need to lay eggs, the tract is more confined. There's also a phallus near the end of the cloaca that makes the space an even tighter fit for any passing waste. Without the extra room to coil, male turkey poop comes out in a longer J shape.

There are other ways to tell male and female turkeys apart. Males are larger with more colorful feathers and can be distinguished by their gobbling sounds. But if you want to know what kind of turkeys are living in your backyard without getting up close and personal with them, learn to recognize their poop.

[h/t Discover Magazine]