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What Do You Call a Group of Turkeys?

Some of the largest ground birds in the world, wild turkeys are plump and heavy-set birds that typically prefer to walk or run over flying.

Collectively consuming thousands of these birds during the holiday season and throughout the year, they’re also one of the most popular food choices. So, if you need to refer to a group of wild turkeys, what word should you use?

A group of wild turkeys is called a rafter.  The origins of the term “rafter” may stem from the fact that these ground birds like to roost in trees or other high-up places. They also make strange noises, which is why they may also be called a gaggle. 

So, what are the exact origins and usages of these words? In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the words to use for a group of turkeys, so keep reading to learn everything you need to know about this topic.

Origins of the Word

male turkey on the lawn

So why is “rafter” the most popular and most correct term to use when referring to a group of turkeys? The origins of the word are a bit obscure, as it seems no one can place exactly why or how a group of turkeys came to be called a rafter.

One possible explanation for this, as we mentioned earlier, is the fact that wild turkeys love to roost in trees, the rafters of buildings like barns and sheds, or other high up places that would normally be difficult to reach.

This is an interesting behavior, as wild turkeys generally spend most of their time on the ground foraging for food, yet they prefer to sleep somewhere high and off the ground.

There’s another theory about the origins of the word “rafter” as being used to refer to a group of wild turkeys that stems from medieval English and Greek.

The word “rafter” has origins in Medieval English as a word derived from Greek to mean “stitched together.” This term came to be used almost exclusively for wild turkeys somewhere in the Middle Ages, thought to be around the 15th century.

Even though there seem to be some possible explanations, they are not completely concrete reasons why this term is used. The best we can do at this point is to simply guess as to why the word “rafter” was chosen to refer to a group of wild turkeys.

Other Terms to Call a Group of Turkeys

group of white turkeys

Despite the word “rafter” being used as the most popular term to refer to a group of turkeys, a few other terms have been widely used as well. A couple of these terms are gaggle, flock, and death row.

The term “gaggle” may seem pretty obvious, as turkeys are known to make strange noises that sound a lot like the word “gaggle.” Therefore, it’s natural that this word would come to be used to refer to this ground bird as a group.

The other widely used term is a flock. This is a word that is generally used to describe groups of most kinds of birds, turkeys included.

The origins of this word came from the fact that groups of birds flock together when they’re in groups, and will often follow each other and exhibit the same flight patterns. This flocking behavior has led the word “flock” to be used for most groups of birds, especially when the actual term is not known.

And lastly the most interesting term, “death row,” can also be used to refer to a group of turkeys. This may seem like a strange choice, but it actually is rooted in strong reasoning.

Because so many turkeys are killed and consumed each year for big holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, it’s like every living domesticated turkey is on death row and awaiting their death.

This term is a bit more on the morbid side, but when you think about it, it really makes sense!

According to a study done by the University of Illinois, around 46 million turkeys are consumed on Thanksgiving, with 22 million being eaten on Christmas and 19 million for Easter.

Why Do Turkeys Come Together in Groups?

group of turkeys on a farm

Turkeys will typically live in groups throughout the entire year. They subsist in gendered groups, with males and females forming their own respective groups made up entirely of one gender of turkey.

Such gendered groups of turkeys may contain anywhere from 15 to 50 birds in them, and they’re never far from another group of turkeys of the opposite sex.

Because there is safety in numbers, turkeys like to stick together in groups for most of their lives.

Using a series of complex vocal calls, they can let each other know when danger is near, disperse, and then come back together. They do this all with just a few different calls to let each other know what’s going on.

Beyond gendered groups, turkeys will come together for mating season, usually with another gendered group of the opposite sex.

A single male can mate with up to 10 hens during mating season, so males will often compete for dominance and mating rights in large groups before they mate.

Final Thoughts

group of turkeys inside a fence

Turkeys are thought to be silly and scatterbrained birds, however, they have proven to be highly intelligent and good at surviving in the wild.

Part of their success in the wild is due to their ability to group together and stay together through the use of complex vocal calls.

If you ever see a group of turkeys in the wild or on a farm, you may wonder what the correct term to call them is.

The most popular and correct term to use is a rafter of turkeys, but a gaggle, a flock, or a death row can also be used in place of this word.

We hope the information we’ve outlined above has answered all your questions, and don’t forget to check out our other articles for more interesting animal facts!

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