Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

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Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby saddaddykiller » Mon Apr 04, 2011 9:56 pm

the other evening right at dark i was fishing and i hooted like a owl about 10 times and after all ten times a turkey gobbled at me....why they do that?
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby FireCloud » Mon Apr 04, 2011 10:42 pm

Before I say anything else, let me first say, "I don't know" why a turkey gobbles at an owl, or at any other birds, such as crows, geese, etc. I have a few "guesses" or theories that may, or may not, be correct. Here they are; take your pick.

Theory #1: The gobbler responds to assert territorial dominance.

Most animals are territorial, and tend to "stake out" their territory in some manner and defend it to an extent from any animals they see as intruders or competitors. I guess a hen turkey might respond to an owl hooting but I have yet to ever hear one do so. But gobblers can and often will gobble when an owl hoots. Gobblers will also respond to other calls from birds like crows or geese. With most species, it is the male that tends to defend his territory the most. I think a gobbler could see the other bigger birds as intruders and competitors for "his space" and he responds to assert his dominance over his territory. A gobbler wold be saying, in essence, "I'm here, this is my territory, and you are going to have to deal with me if you invade my space." Since gobblers don't respond to all the smaller birds that call, such as blue jays, etc. I believe the gobbler does not see all the smaller birds as a threat.

Theory #2: The gobbler responds because he seriously dislikes the other birds.

The gobbler may be responding to these larger bird's calls simply because he does not like those birds one bit and is insulted by their presence. He obviously wants them to know he is there. If he did not want to let them know his presence, he would just remain silent as he does with the many other birds that produce bird calls.

There seems to be a natural dislike between many species for other species. For example, often when I do turkey callling, I get a response from any crows in the area. They will caw with gusto and sometimes come closer to get a look at the turkeys they think are making the calls. I don't feel the crows are simply glad to hear a friendly turkey sound off but think the crows and turkeys do not like each other at all, thus they insult each other back and forth verbally. Same thing with the owls and turkeys.

Theory #3: The gobbler responds to alert the other birds to his position in order to avoid any conflict with them.

This theory is like "honking a horn" to alert anyone within earshot that you are in the vicinity so they won't bump into you inadvertently. IAnimals may do this routinely simply to let others know where they are as they travel in the woods. For self preservation, an animal like a turkey would logically be silent as it moved about, only communicating with its own species when necessary. Any other noises it makes serve to tell everything in the woods, including predators, where it is located. So survival dictates that animals should remain silent as much as possible in order to enhance their chances of staying alive. Being silent makes it much harder for other animals to know the gobbler is even in the woods.

But "sounding off" may also be a survival strategy as it may help the turkey or any other animals to be sure they are not traveling, nesting, or feeding in a direction that will bring them into confrontation with another animals. It essentially lets other animals "steer clear" and avoid crossing paths. This could reduce the opportunities for animals to have to risk injury defending themselves, their harem, or their brood due to having to fight off another species that inadvertently stumbles into their area. This theory assumes many animals prefer to "steer clear" of other animals when possible and go about their own business with the least contact with other species as they can manage.

Remember, I "don't know" the real answer. These are just some possiblities that I have wondered about. Not sure any of them are correct. It's really just a "Why does the chicken cross the road" type of question and probably no one knows the correct answer.
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby saddaddykiller » Mon Apr 04, 2011 11:17 pm

oh...i was thinking it was more like, when the owls hoot, the gobblers think that the owls are hens because turkeys cannot hear good at all or something like that.......i also wonder why they gobble at thunder............but yeah firecloud i understand what u are saying, i guess a good answer for this question would be something like (because God made them that way)
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby bigsmoke » Tue Apr 05, 2011 6:22 am

Because God made them that way. :W: :2TU:
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby merrillcd_mem » Tue Apr 05, 2011 6:35 am

They also gobble at thunder, truck doors slamming or even a real loud Hee Haw :) at least during this time of the year!!.. Not sure why.
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby sidog » Tue Apr 05, 2011 6:28 pm

I've always heard that owls catch baby turkeys off the roost is why they hate them?
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby Todd Macko » Tue Apr 05, 2011 6:52 pm

I think they're hardwired to gobble at this time of the year and respond to any auditory stimulation of a certain volume or tone or combination of both. There are noises that will set one Tom off without invoking a response from another. It's probably directly related to the state of excitement and drive of the individual turkeys.

It's just a biological function to communicate their presence to as many hens as possible. In nature the hens travel to the Toms. It's in the gobblers' best reproductive interest to attract as many hens as possible and nature equipped him pretty well for the job.
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby BigRic » Tue Apr 05, 2011 7:29 pm

Gobblers will "shock gobble" at loud sounds that have nothing to do with turkey talk
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby FireCloud » Wed Apr 06, 2011 11:49 pm

Lots of good theories but I am still partial to at least one of mine, that being that gobblers gobble because they seriously dislike the owl hoots or other noises. I see it as being about the same thing as why a dog barks at some things but not at others. What sets off one dog may not make another dog, even of the same species, bark at all. Some dogs, for instance, pay little attention to a cat walking by where as other dogs bark and go crazy anytime they see any cat. I contend those dogs just flat don't like a cat and behave accordingly. But that does not mean every dog will behave the same way. Neither will every gobbler sound off when they hear an owl hoot or one of the other noises that might make a different gobbler speak up.

I'm not convinced a gobbler is truly "shocked" when they hear an owl hoot. The owls and the gobblers live in the same woods and hear each other's calls all year long. It cannot be a "shock" for a turkey to hear an owl hoot. They probably hear a dozen owl hoots every day that rolls. So how is it a "shock" for them to hear another owl hoot. Why is it any more shocking for them to hear an owl hoot than it is for them to hear a train horn, a helicopter, a siren, or a person sneeze? I've never heard a gobbler respond to any of these kinds of noises that are probably more shocking than any owl hoot. I can see where a surprise clap of thunder might be a shock but the other noises, like truck doors, owls, crows, geese, or similar things are heard by turkeys all the time. It can't be that a turkey gobbles in response to those things because they are startled and completely surprised to hear them. And if that were true, why don't ALL turkey's act the same way?

I am also not convinced all those sorts of noise are mistaken by a gobbler for the sound of a hen. Turkey's have a keen sense of hearing and they definitely should be able to tell the difference between a clap of thunder and a hen! The theory that a gobbler thinks owls, crows, geese, truck doors slamming, and thunder are all hens making noise is just too far fetched for me to believe. Even a love struck gobbler is not that stupid. If they hear that poorly, then they would be gobbling at nearly every loud noise, like at gunshots or other similar things.

There could be some truth to the idea that certain pitch and intensity of noises stimulate the ears of a turkey to the point where he gobbles in an automatic response. That would be about the same thing as a dog howling when a siren blows. I can see a little logic to that theory. But if it is true, then all turkeys should respond all the time to those same sounds and clearly they don't.

The problem with all those theories, from the viewpoint of scientific inquiry is none of them are consistent with the observable facts. And when a theory is inconsistent with the facts, by definiition, it cannot be true. To be true, a theory has to fit the facts and be a valid explanation for the facts in all cases.

I still "don't know" why a turkey will gobble at such noises, but at least all three of my theories fully mesh with the observable factual behavior of gobblers. All three allow for and validly explain why some gobblers respond to some noises and some don't, especially Theory #2. With that theory, the individual personality of the bird, just like the individual personality of a dog, governs whether or not they choose to respond to any given noise.
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby Ironwood » Thu Apr 07, 2011 10:27 am

Some years back the lady next door decide she wanted to raise turkeys. She had about 25 white gobblers. Everytime we closed the car door, walked out the back door, started the lawn mower, coughed, or made any sudden noise, 25 white turkey gobblers let out with a gobble! Talk about irritating!
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby BigRic » Thu Apr 07, 2011 10:36 pm

my buddy was fixing his fence last year during turkey season. every time he hit the post with a hammer one would gobble...so he calls his wife outside and tells her to hit the fence post every 30 seconds so she does and the turkey starts gobblin again.and he snuck up on the bird and killed him....
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby saddaddykiller » Fri Apr 08, 2011 12:49 am

FireCloud wrote:Lots of good theories but I am still partial to at least one of mine, that being that gobblers gobble because they seriously dislike the owl hoots or other noises. I see it as being about the same thing as why a dog barks at some things but not at others. What sets off one dog may not make another dog, even of the same species, bark at all. Some dogs, for instance, pay little attention to a cat walking by where as other dogs bark and go crazy anytime they see any cat. I contend those dogs just flat don't like a cat and behave accordingly. But that does not mean every dog will behave the same way. Neither will every gobbler sound off when they hear an owl hoot or one of the other noises that might make a different gobbler speak up.

I'm not convinced a gobbler is truly "shocked" when they hear an owl hoot. The owls and the gobblers live in the same woods and hear each other's calls all year long. It cannot be a "shock" for a turkey to hear an owl hoot. They probably hear a dozen owl hoots every day that rolls. So how is it a "shock" for them to hear another owl hoot. Why is it any more shocking for them to hear an owl hoot than it is for them to hear a train horn, a helicopter, a siren, or a person sneeze? I've never heard a gobbler respond to any of these kinds of noises that are probably more shocking than any owl hoot. I can see where a surprise clap of thunder might be a shock but the other noises, like truck doors, owls, crows, geese, or similar things are heard by turkeys all the time. It can't be that a turkey gobbles in response to those things because they are startled and completely surprised to hear them. And if that were true, why don't ALL turkey's act the same way?

I am also not convinced all those sorts of noise are mistaken by a gobbler for the sound of a hen. Turkey's have a keen sense of hearing and they definitely should be able to tell the difference between a clap of thunder and a hen! The theory that a gobbler thinks owls, crows, geese, truck doors slamming, and thunder are all hens making noise is just too far fetched for me to believe. Even a love struck gobbler is not that stupid. If they hear that poorly, then they would be gobbling at nearly every loud noise, like at gunshots or other similar things.

There could be some truth to the idea that certain pitch and intensity of noises stimulate the ears of a turkey to the point where he gobbles in an automatic response. That would be about the same thing as a dog howling when a siren blows. I can see a little logic to that theory. But if it is true, then all turkeys should respond all the time to those same sounds and clearly they don't.

The problem with all those theories, from the viewpoint of scientific inquiry is none of them are consistent with the observable facts. And when a theory is inconsistent with the facts, by definiition, it cannot be true. To be true, a theory has to fit the facts and be a valid explanation for the facts in all cases.

I still "don't know" why a turkey will gobble at such noises, but at least all three of my theories fully mesh with the observable factual behavior of gobblers. All three allow for and validly explain why some gobblers respond to some noises and some don't, especially Theory #2. With that theory, the individual personality of the bird, just like the individual personality of a dog, governs whether or not they choose to respond to any given noise.



i wouldnt say they are (shocked) either because they gobble till after a owl hoots etc...a owl might take 2-4 secocnds to stop hooting and everytime i hoot like a owl, the turkeys always wait till i finish making the noise and THEN they gobble......if they were shocked into gobbling it seems like they would gobble before the owl even stops hooting....... so in other words, when they gobble, they are wanting whatever made that noise that they are gobbling at to hear him gobbling if that makes sense....
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby FireCloud » Fri Apr 08, 2011 1:00 am

Well, BigRic, I guess I have to confess there might be a difference between those "rural" turkeys living around your hunting camp and the "urban" turkeys running around in the patches of woods lying between subdivisions, interstate highways, golf courses, and all the other things in my area. The animals here get to hear music floating around from the "hood" (usually rap music but occasionally some of my country music!) and are constantly exposed to police and fire sirens, burglar and car alarms going off, and all sorts of human noises. I would hate to know how many times they hear a truck door slam every day around here. Probably about 50 times per day.

They hear dogs barking and people talking 24/7 plus hear dozens of planes, helicopters, trains, big trucks, construction machinery, etc. all the time. In fact, unless the turkey (and the deer or any other wildlife) hike for about 10 to 15 miles in a straight line there is NO PLACE where they will not hear this sort of stuff anywhere they are. It is just how life is in an urban environment where there are 400,000 people living in a metropolitian area.

So when I say turkeys are not "shocked" here, I fully believe they here so much of this sort of noise they pay little or no attention to it. Your cell phone could ring while you are in the woods here and probably none of the animals would even look up even if you answered the call. They are just accustomed to living near humans and being exposed to all the human sounds. A builder one street west of my land has been constructing five new homes and the turkeys here have been listening to a carpenter crew hammer all day long for the past 6 months. No turkeys ever gobble at the sound of a hammer here for sure!

I probably don't need to post anything about animal behavior anymore because nothing the animals do here is like what animals living in rural locations do. When I lived in Grenada and hunted places where animals might only see a human now and then, they behaved more like the way nature intended them to behave. But after years of living beside humans, the animals in this urban environment are just not like normal wildlife.
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby Todd Macko » Fri Apr 08, 2011 10:46 pm

Some of the most raucous bickering I've heard in the deer woods has been between roosting gobblers and and irate squirrels whose territory have just been infringed upon. For all the nasty fights I've seen and for all the obvious animosity these two species have for each other, I can't say that I've ever noted a Tom gobbling at squirrel noises before.

I agree that the only way you're going to really shock a turkey is to sneak up behind him and scream, "Boo!".

I'm sticking to some kind of hardwired behavior to gobble in response to loud sounds. It might even be a bit of vocal "King of the Mountain" playing. You know, not to be outdone, "Gobble...Gobble...Gobble!".
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby FireCloud » Fri Apr 08, 2011 11:19 pm

Todd Macko wrote:I'm sticking to some kind of hardwired behavior to gobble in response to loud sounds. It might even be a bit of vocal "King of the Mountain" playing. You know, not to be outdone, "Gobble...Gobble...Gobble!".


I think you might have something about the intensity (loudness) of a sound making a turkey gobble. As you say, I have never heard a turkey gobble at any of the "small noises" made by anything...bird, animal, etc....but only at the louder noises.

Like you, I have wondered if a gobbler just feels excessively proud of himself and when something makes a loud noise, he feels inclined to make one also under the "king of the mountain" mentality.

At the risk of incurring the wrath of every dog owner on this forum, I have also wondered if a gobbler, like some "moron" type dogs I have seen, simply bark (or gobble) at anything and everything for no intelligent reason. I have known a lot of dogs who were "mental midgets" and barked endlessly at the moon or something known only to them. One of them lives next door to me. That dumb dog often will bark for an hour at a time and races around inside his pen until he is panting so bad he starts wheezing and coughing. There are probably a dozen dogs in pens on my street and the dumb dog next door will usually be the only dog barking. I think the other dogs even hate his idiotic barking!

My thinking is that nature sometimes produces "mental midgets" in the turkey kingdom too. And those Tom's may simply gobble at anything that makes racket, perhaps just because (like some women I know) they simply enjoy hearing their gums beat together. :D

Ok, now that I have gotten all the females and the dog owners stirred up :stir: , I think I will sit back and see what they have to say. :pop:
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby LazyGhost » Sat Apr 09, 2011 8:38 pm

I have one of those mental midget dogs. This dog barks just to bark. She tries to act like she is actually barking at something by running to the end of the porch and barking in a genearal direction. But ive seen it a thousand times and have figured her out. Over the last couple of years we have housed many different dogs with many different personalities. I have witnessed firsthand that this condition can be transfered to a normal dog that rarely barks at all. :bash:
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby FireCloud » Sat Apr 09, 2011 10:47 pm

"Mental Midget" was actually the name of a dog I once betted on at a Greyhound track in South Alabama. When I saw the name of that dog on the race card, I died laughing and told my girlfriend who was with me at the time that it reminded me of her...so I was going to bet on the dog. (Like most of my girlfriends, she was a typical blonde...not especially bright. :D )

Anyway, I learned my lesson about dog names. Mental Midget was too stupid to even know how to run around a Greyhound track. He looked like he was confused from the start and came in way back in the pack.

To keep from hijacking this thread, I still don't know why turkeys gobble at owls but it just could be some of them simply are "mental midgets." They do say turkeys will sometimes just stare up into the sky when rain starts to fall as if they have no clue what rain is.
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby BigRic » Sun Apr 10, 2011 7:41 am

To keep from hijacking this thread, I still don't know why turkeys gobble at owls but it just could be some of them simply are "mental midgets." They do say turkeys will sometimes just stare up into the sky when rain starts to fall as if they have no clue what rain is.[/quote]



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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby Rajun cajun » Wed Apr 13, 2011 10:01 am

Turkeys have a brain the size of a green pea, not a lot of stuff going on i'n it except here am I hewing today, what is there to eat. How many hens can I draw i'n and hump
Sometimes we spend way more time trying to analyze things that really do not amount to a hill of beans, instead of just accepting that somethings are just as they are, with ryme or reason
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby FireCloud » Wed Apr 13, 2011 11:44 pm

Rajun cajun wrote:Turkeys have a brain the size of a green pea, not a lot of stuff going on i'n it except here am I hewing today, what is there to eat. How many hens can I draw i'n and hump
Sometimes we spend way more time trying to analyze things that really do not amount to a hill of beans, instead of just accepting that somethings are just as they are, with ryme or reason


Rajun, I think you hit the nail on the head. I have to admit this makes more sense than any analysis I or anyone else has made. Sure sounds a lot like some males I know...brain the size of a pea, what is there to eat, how many chicks are available to hump... :rotflol:
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby LadyHunter » Thu Apr 14, 2011 7:56 am

:rotflol: :rotflol: :smash: :smash: thats all I have to say!!!
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby LazyGhost » Thu Apr 14, 2011 10:51 am

FireCloud wrote:
Rajun cajun wrote:Turkeys have a brain the size of a green pea, not a lot of stuff going on i'n it except here am I hewing today, what is there to eat. How many hens can I draw i'n and hump
Sometimes we spend way more time trying to analyze things that really do not amount to a hill of beans, instead of just accepting that somethings are just as they are, with ryme or reason


Rajun, I think you hit the nail on the head. I have to admit this makes more sense than any analysis I or anyone else has made. Sure sounds a lot like some males I know...brain the size of a pea, what is there to eat, how many chicks are available to hump... :rotflol:


That soulds like a young turkey. An old turkey just wants something to eat and a place to sleep. :D
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Re: Why do turkeys gobble at owls?

Postby Rajun cajun » Thu Apr 14, 2011 8:02 pm

Glad to be able to put it all in perspective for ya'll!
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