Fine Feathered Fiends: 6 Bizarre Turkey Attacks

Why did the turkey cross the road? To peck at your tires.
Why did the turkey cross the road? To peck at your tires. / Judy Gallagher, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In the last several decades, conservation organizations have successfully brought wild turkeys back from the brink of extinction in the U.S.—so it’s not uncommon to run into one (or many) in your neighborhood. While most of these encounters are innocuous, turkeys have been known to lash out at cars, mail carriers, and kitchen windows in the past. Here are six of the strangest stories to bring to the table this Thanksgiving.

1. New Jersey’s Gobbling Gangsters

Courtney Lopchinsky was enjoying a peaceful family dinner at home in Teaneck, New Jersey, when a wild turkey crashed through the kitchen window, showering her and her children with glass and mud. “I grabbed the kids and we literally ran for our lives out of the house because we were so scared,” she told CBS2 in 2016. According to Lopchinsky, the unwelcome dinner guest was one of many “gangster turkeys” known to “terrorize kids at bus stops and chase people to their cars.” Teaneck health officer Ken Katter recommended simply giving the birds a wide berth, though “water hoses” and “leashed dogs” could be used to scare them off if necessary. As for how to deal with breaking and entering, he didn’t say.

2. When Turkeys Encircled a Dead Cat

In March 2017, Jonathan Davis witnessed a flock of well-organized turkeys plodding around a dead cat in the middle of a street outside Boston. “They were moving in perfect unison, bobbing their heads, and it almost looked as if it were some type of séance or ritual,” he told Inside Edition. Alas, the cat did not rise—and the turkeys probably didn’t want it to. “My guess is they are puzzled by the strange behavior of the dead or dying cat [and wanted] to get a closer look, without getting too close,” Tom Hughes, a wildlife biologist at the National Wild Turkey Federation, explained to National Geographic.

3. The Prized Pet That Ambushed a Brooklyn Butcher

In April 1924, a Brooklyn butcher named Sam Fishman entered Garber & Danziger’s live poultry shop to choose some chickens and ended up leaving with a broken arm. The room was dim, so Fishman was completely blindsided when a “turkey gobbler weighing at least 40 pounds charged from behind a dark corner.” Upon impact, Fishman slipped on the wet floor and landed on his left arm, which didn’t heal properly after surgery. He sued the owners, Mollie Garber and Benjamin Danziger, who explained in court that the turkey was a pet and “never had shown vicious propensities before.” About two years after the accident, the court awarded Fishman $2000 in damages (a little over $29,000 today).

4. The Woman Who Fought Fowl With Fowl

In November 2014, humor columnist Tracy Beckerman headed home after a trip to the grocery store to find a wild turkey blocking her driveway. After she shouted, sounded her car horn, and blew a raspberry at it, the bird charged her car and gave the bumper an almighty peck. Since it showed no signs of leaving her property, Beckerman turned to more drastic measures. She plucked the wrapped, raw Thanksgiving turkey from her grocery bag and lobbed it at its living relative. The wild turkey took to the skies to dodge the missile, but it didn’t go far—moments later, it had settled in her neighbor’s yard.

5. When Turkeys Waged War Against a Michigan Mail Carrier

In 2009, the turkeys of Grand Haven, Michigan, started targeting one human in particular: the mail carrier, Doug Cody. “We can’t figure it out because anybody else can walk pretty close to them and they’ll just stay there and look at you, but even when he comes down in his truck—he’ll back his truck around and they’ll peck at the truck,” one resident told WWMT. Once, when a few menacing turkeys had cornered Cody on a resident’s porch, he called the postmaster for help. “She laughed so hard I think she just dropped the phone,” Cody said. Other postal workers treated the ongoing issue with similar levity, filling Cody’s office mailbox with turkey feathers and hanging “Wanted” signs for the fiendish fowl. Eventually, Cody took to bringing a thin plank of wood on his route to keep the birds at a distance.

6. Hank Hatebeak, the Big Bird on Campus

In 2017, wild turkeys wreaked so much havoc on campus at the University of California, Santa Cruz, that students started keeping tabs on—and even naming—individual offenders. The biggest culprit was Hank Hatebeak, a particularly large and hostile specimen with a proclivity for pecking car tires. “I used to feel bad about eating turkeys,” art student Caroline Alfonso said in a news release. “Now I feel less sympathy.”