'Hot' for Turkey

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Science Friday is sharing Thanksgiving science tidbits with us all week long. Gobble Gobble!

With its fanned plumage and bold strut, a male wild turkey’s display conjures images of Americana and festive feasts. But this bird’s grandstanding isn’t intended for human eyes—it’s for female turkeys who actually use it to discern a male’s genetic prowess. How exactly she parses performances to pick a suitor can be a fairly complex enterprise, but thanks to the research of Richard Buchholz of the University of Mississippi, we have some clues as to what a female turkey finds “hot” in a male.

Credits

Produced by Luke Groskin
Footage ands Stills Provided by Pronghorn Productions
Richard Buchholz, Ph.d. Pond5, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Sgt. White Knight YT User (C.C. 3.0), “Light Curve on the Road” (C.C. 3.0)
Music by Audio Network, Ponchielli, “Dance of the Hours”

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