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Can Turkeys See Orange?

There is a good amount of people out there that only think about turkeys around the holidays, and the last thing they’re concerned with is what colors they can see.

Then there are those out there who are concerned about the eyesight of turkeys, wondering if turkeys can see orange in particular.

Turkeys can see a broad spectrum of colors and pick the color orange out every bit as quickly as possible. Though some local governments and lawmakers state that turkeys can’t see bright colors, science (mainly the biological makeup of the turkey’s eyes) says otherwise.

There’s a great reason why local governments and lawmakers might try to downplay the function of the eyes of a turkey.

I’ll get right into it in the following section, as we learn about who else cares if they can see orange.

Who Cares About What Colors Turkeys Can See?

wild turkeys in the bush

There are two major groups of people who are very concerned with the eyesight of turkeys and whether or not they can see specific colors, particularly orange.

Hunters and hunting gear designers.

Turkey Hunters

Turkeys are more intelligent than they typically appear and sound and are not as easy as one may think to hunt down. Hunters want to go unseen in the woods while hunting turkeys to get that much more of an edge.

Whether or not a turkey can see the out-of-place safety orange of some camo designs and hunting gear can either make or break a hunter’s strategy in the woods.

Apparel Manufacturers

Hunting apparel designers and manufacturers want to create products that assist people out on the hunt.

They don’t want to craft and attempt to sell things that will be counterproductive. Of course, this would lead to a loss of time, money, and business.

Sometimes, It’s the Law!

hunting law sign

Above, we mentioned local governments and lawmakers regarding whether or not a turkey can see orange. Why?

In some states, it’s the law for hunters to wear gear that sticks out like a sore thumb in the woods (laymen’s terms), and bright orange does the trick.

This is why you’ll see hunting gear that’s camouflaged yet has bright orange blent into the pattern, or solid bright orange hats, vests, and other articles of clothing associated with hunting.

The reason is solid- they don’t want hunters shooting each other, plain and simple. This causes a bit of a headache for some, especially if a turkey can see you from a mile away.

Some state-associated websites claim turkeys do not have sharp vision to distinguish between bright colors. However, as science has plowed forward into this topic, research proves that the opposite is true.

This is where strategy comes into play. Strategies can be anything from making sure you’re in a good spot where turkeys won’t be able to see you at all, such as a ridge, for example or the utilization of hunting blinds. It is a workable problem for most people.

How Many Colors Can a Turkey See?

wild turkey close photo with different colors on the background

Unlike other animals out there, turkeys can see extremely well and see a large spectrum of colors, especially when compared to other prey animals. Whatever color you can see, they can see- and this is an understatement.

You may be surprised to know that turkeys can see color better than we can and in a wider spectrum of colors than we’re able to peer into. They also look at things differently than we can, taking in more of their surroundings in one glance.

The positioning of a turkey’s eyes gives them a constant 270-degree view of their environment compared to our 180 fields of view. Their eyes are better equipped to see colors than ours, being made up of more cones in the eyeball than we have. (Eyes use what’s called cones and rods to perceive color.)

So, to answer the question “How many colors can a turkey see?” the answer is much simpler when generalized as “all of them.” They can even peer into things that remain unseen to the human eye, such as UVA light.

How Far Away Can a Turkey See?

wild turkey side view photo

This is where turkeys differ from humans to their disadvantage. Turkeys can see things up to a mile away and are assumed to see up to 3 times more clearly than humans with 20/20 vision.

But their hindrance is twofold.

  • Depth Perception- Monocular type vision
  • Threat Perception- How a threat is perceived visually

Though they have better eyes than us, they’re certainly not smarter. Turkeys can see better, but that doesn’t mean that it instantly knows what it’s looking at.

In other words, the color orange doesn’t scream hunter to a turkey, and it just means that it sees something orange. However, if it notices that the orange thing is moving at all, even just a little bit, then the alarm raises.

If a turkey can distinguish a person from their surroundings, the gig’s up, and they’ll scatter to safety. The slightest visual sign of unnatural movement will draw their attention.

Hunters typically deck themselves out more hunting turkeys than they would against other prey such as deer due to the sharp eyes of the turkey. Holding perfectly still for extended periods is something that turkey hunters must get used to if they want to bring one home for dinner.

Does it Matter if Turkeys can See Orange?

wild turkey walking on the grass

In short, not necessarily. Theoretically, if a hunter is wearing camouflage mingled with orange, turkeys may consider this out of the norm and might become curious about what they see. However, that’s just one strike within a two-strike system.

If the turkey sees the color orange and, upon inspection, happens to be able to make out the shape of a predator (human in this case) due to even the slightest movement, that’s strike two; game over.

Does orange make it tougher to hunt turkeys? Probably, but tougher doesn’t mean impossible or even close. It just means that more creativity, skill, and experience might need to come into play.

Final Thoughts

wild turkey left side view photo

Turkeys can’t fly all that far or high and have no great sense of smell. They don’t run particularly fast and have no weapons to count on to stave off natural predators.

That being said, it shouldn’t be too surprising that their eyes are outstanding.

Making them able to see predators coming from a mile away, their eyes are what they rely upon to help stay alive in the wild.

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