Why Is a Group of Turkeys Called a “Rafter”?

A group of turkeys called rafter

Have you ever encountered several turkeys at once and asked yourself what a group of turkeys is called? If you haven’t found the answer to that question yet, this article features just what you’re looking for and more. 

Turkeys are intelligent, sensitive, and highly sociable birds. Similar to the nature of dogs, turkeys like to create lasting bonds and are very affectionate with one another. 

If you’re curious to learn what a group of turkeys is called, keep on reading. This article features several other fun facts, such as the name of a group of male, female, and baby turkeys and why turkeys flock in large groups.

What Is a Group of Turkeys Called?

A group of turkeys in the snow

Generally, the most commonly used collective noun to describe a group of turkeys is a rafter of turkeys. Although it may sound rather peculiar and unusual to refer to them as such, studies state that this name is based on the turkey’s behavior.

Similar to many other birds and animals, turkeys have particular traits, habits, and behaviors that help them survive. These usually revolve around competition, safety, and the process of mating. 

The following sections expound more on the behavior of turkeys and why these have influenced the way we collectively describe them as a group.

Why Is a Group of Turkeys Called a “Rafter”?

As of writing, research and evidence regarding why a group of turkeys is called a rafter are very tenuous. The available sources that have studied why they are called such believe that it may be based on their behavior. 

Limited studies and observations state that turkeys typically prefer sleeping or nesting in trees or other high-up places, hence the term rafter. Rafters are the eaves of the roofs of structures that are typically made of wood.

Despite being known as ground-dwelling birds, turkeys prefer nesting on the branches of trees or other high-up places to avoid being targeted by predators such as coyotes, raccoons, mountain lions, bobcats, and eagles.

Aside from their behavior, another theory as to why a group of turkeys is called a rafter is because, in Greek, rafter means “stitch together,” which was then used to describe a group of turkeys in the 15th century. 

Why Is a Group of Turkeys Called a “Gaggle”?

A gaggle of turkeys

Aside from a group of turkeys being referred to as a rafter of turkeys, another commonly used collective noun to describe them is a gaggle of turkeys. Similar to rafter, many people find this term rather unusual. 

Studies and observations also state that the term gaggle is used to describe a group of turkeys based on their behavior. Turkeys are known to be very noisy birds who make gobbling or gaggling sounds, hence the term gaggle. 

Although the odd noises they make may all sound the same, turkeys are actually capable of producing 28 distinct gaggling and gobbling calls, which are similar across all subspecies of turkeys.

For male turkeys, the gurgling sound they produce is specifically called gobble. Although calling a group of turkeys gobble would be more logical, the term gaggle was adopted in early centuries and persisted until today.

Check out the video below to see a large gaggle of turkeys make their distinct gobbling and gaggling sounds:

Turkeys Gobbling - Funny Turkey Gobble Videos

Other Names for a Group of Turkeys

Aside from rafter and gaggle, there are several other ways to describe a group of turkeys. Like other bird groups, another common and well-known term used to describe a group of turkeys is called a flock of turkeys. 

Other than the three commonly used terms mentioned above, listed below are 14 more ways to describe a group of turkeys:

  • A run of turkeys
  • A dole of turkeys
  • A dule of turkeys
  • A mob of turkeys
  • A herd of turkeys
  • A crop of turkeys
  • A gang of turkeys
  • A raffle of turkeys
  • A brood of turkeys
  • A posse of turkeys
  • A school of turkeys
  • A muster of turkeys
  • A death row of turkeys
  • A thanksgiving of turkeys

Among the several terms mentioned, the words mob, brood, and muster are other commonly known terms one may use to refer to a group of turkeys. 

The last terms on the list — death row and thanksgiving — emerged from the practice of serving turkey on special occasions such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. 

What Is a Group of Male Turkeys Called?

A group of male turkeys

Similar to other birds and animals, male turkeys have specific names for their various stages of life. Young or juvenile male turkeys are called jakes, while adult male turkeys are referred to as toms. 

At the beginning of the mating season, a group of male turkeys are called bachelors. This is the period when the male turkeys begin to congregate with the females. 

Another observation is that juvenile turkeys, also known as jakes, frequently gang up on older turkeys, also referred to as toms. This phenomenon is what led to the use of a group of turkeys called gangs or mobs. 

What Is a Group of Female Turkeys Called?

Similar to male turkeys, female turkeys also have specific names for different stages of life. An adult female turkey is referred to as a hen, while a young female turkey is referred to as a jenny. 

A group of female turkeys or hens is typically referred to as a brood or flock of turkeys. Although these terms may also be used to describe a group of male turkeys, there is no specific term dedicated to describing only females. 

What Is a Group of Baby Turkeys Called?

A group of baby turkeys

A baby turkey is also called a poult. Unfortunately, there is no designated term to collectively describe a group of baby turkeys or poults. They are simply referred to as a group of poults, while some use the term flock.

‎How Many Turkeys Are in a Rafter?

Compared to other birds that are also often seen in large groups, such as crows, a rafter of turkeys typically only consists of around 15 to 50 birds, while other bird groups can reach up to 1,000. 

Only during the mating season do rafters of turkeys grow in number. Female and male turkeys congregate at the beginning of this season, which results in rafters reaching around 100 to 200 turkeys.

After a few weeks, this number also steadily decreases as the turkeys start separating into smaller breeding groups. After congregating, male and female turkeys usually spend the majority of their time apart.

Why Do Turkeys Flock Together in Large Groups?

Turkeys flocked together

Turkeys usually flock together based on gender. Male and female turkeys form distinctive flocks consisting of around 15 to 50 birds. These flocks are also typically found within close proximity to each other.

Like many species of birds, turkeys often flock in large groups to provide safety and security to one another. When they see or sense a threat nearby, their loud and distinct calls help them regroup and fend off predators. 

Aside from there being safety in numbers, turkeys also flock together in large groups to make breeding easier. Large flocks usually lower the competition between male turkeys and female hens. 

Since male turkeys have been observed to mate with up to 10 hens, being in a larger flock of turkeys provides them with more chances of finding potential mates without having to compete for dominance as much. 

When Do Turkeys Flock Together?

I once participated in a lengthy field observation that led us to the finding that turkeys typically flock together during mating season.

What was noticeable about their group behavior was that they initially formed smaller gendered flocks and then combined together prior to mating season, around March or April. 

Once the male and female turkeys have finished congregating after a few weeks, they begin to separate into smaller breeding groups where there are often more females than males. 

Nesting female turkeys that are a few days away from laying their eggs tend to become very secretive. They often separate themselves from the males and brood their eggs until the winter. 

Now that you have learned the answer to the question, “What do you call a group of turkeys?” all other questions regarding these interesting birds are welcome in the comments below! 

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