Can Turkeys Smell? Can They Hear?


Turkeys have a keen sense of smell, as do all birds. Many substances that humans can not detect with their limited olfactory ability are easily picked up by the sensitive smelling abilities of turkeys and other birds.

Turkeys can smell, but their sense of smell is weak. Turkeys also have a poor sense of taste. So people searching for turkeys do not need to worry about masking their scent. However, turkeys have an excellent sense of hearing, and their vision is fair.

Turkeys prefer to mate in large groups because they bond through chemical signals that they secrete and use for communication. Turkey mating is a very olfactory process. Mating between turkeys consists of a male chasing a female with his neck feathers flared out and drumming on the ground near the female with his claws. It is believed that these visual and auditory mating signals are seen as attractive to females because they also attract other males who will want to mate with the female as well. The more males attracted to one female, the greater the genetic diversity of that hen’s offspring.Turkeys also seem to use their sense of smell for many other purposes. They can smell food from very far away, making them excellent hunters because they can find prey long before it would even be visible. Turkeys also use their sense of smell to recognize and identify other turkeys around them. A turkey can tell its chicks from those of another hen by smelling their droppings at a young age, just as we would recognize our children in a crowd by way of the familiar smells unique to each person.

Turkeys also pick up the scent of danger. If a predator or any other type of threat is sensed, turkeys will react by becoming silent and remaining still. This is an attempt to hide from the enemy using the element of surprise against it. They are less likely to be picked out among their surroundings by the possible attacker by not moving.This acute awareness of the surroundings through smell is probably what makes turkeys so successful at evading hunters. Turkeys have an exceptional sense of smell and can tell which direction a hunter’s scent is coming from reasonably quickly. This means that they are more likely to detect hunters before they are detected by the birds, allowing them enough time to escape before the hunters are close enough to shoot.

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Can turkeys hear?

Birds do not have ears in the same sense that humans do. Birds can still hear, but their ear structures are very different from humans and other mammals. Turkeys have relatively big heads compared to the rest of their bodies because they contain auditory bullae, primarily of air. These structures help to amplify sound waves that enter the turkey’s head and then send them into the inner ear for interpretation. Because of this, it is believed that turkeys hear much better than humans with their heads tilted back because it opens up the auditory canal and makes it easier for the sound waves to travel in and be interpreted by the brain.Turkeys also can tell where a sound is coming from. Humans can tell that someone on an opposite side of a room just spoke. Still, we cannot determine precisely where the noise came from very quickly because it is hard for us to triangulate the location of such faint sounds. Turkeys, however, can pinpoint exactly where a sound is coming from much more quickly than humans can because of how sound waves reflect off objects and return to them.Turkeys can also tune into particular frequencies, just like we can tell what someone is saying when they are standing next to us but cannot pick up much besides that one voice. A turkey’s inner ear is sensitive enough to pick up noises that are two octaves higher than the noise of a shotgun, for example. What does all this mean?Turkeys have an acute sense of smell and hearing, which allows them to detect predators long before they are detected themselves. The excellent hearing combined with their ability to pinpoint sounds allow turkeys to avoid hunters as well.

Can turkeys smell cigarette smoke?

Turkeys have a very keen sense of smell and may even be able to detect certain odors from miles away. This fact makes it possible that turkeys could pick up the scent of cigarette smoke, which may alert them to a dangerous predator nearby. If this is true, hunters who use tobacco products when hunting may want to abstain from doing so to avoid spooking the birds before they get within shooting range.Does this mean that smoking while turkey hunting is a good idea?Killing an animal needlessly is never a good idea, even if one does not agree with the values of animal rights activists. On the other hand, there are many hunters who do not follow this philosophy and may occasionally enjoy a cigarette or two while waiting for the right shot.

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Does turkey hunting need scent control?

In short, yes. Hunters who are trying to be as stealthy as possible should consider scent control products to help mask their human odor and make it more difficult for the turkeys they are hunting to detect them before they get within shooting range. Given that many hunters agree with animal rights activists on this issue, the only logical reason people still use tobacco products when hunting is that they want to enjoy their vice while waiting for that perfect shot.If you want to avoid spooking the birds, consider using a product like Scent Crusher. It is a spray that hunters can use to eliminate human odors from their clothes and gear without causing any damage.

In order for humans to regularly engage in hunting activities, it has been found that they require an effortless means of disabling prey animals in a way that deprives them of the opportunity to detect their predators. In this study, researchers used turkey vultures as a means to test how birds with superior olfactory senses are able to pinpoint locations without the use of sight or sound (Estes & Goddard 1969). The results indicated that turkey vultures were capable of using their sense of smell to locate and identify their prey (Estes & Goddard 1969). This is an important finding because it suggests that the olfactory sense in turkeys is vital for locating food and distinguishing whether or not a predator may be nearby.

How far can turkeys see?

Turkeys are capable of seeing in color. It has been shown that turkeys have the ability to distinguish between colors such as red, yellow, green, and brown (Davidson et al. 1966). The turkey’s retina contains two different types of cells known as rods and cones. Rods are considered to be more sensitive for gathering light during nighttime. The color of rod cells appears black and white to humans, but they absorb a wide range of wavelengths (Davison et al. 1966). Cones, on the other hand, contain pigments that absorb light, and not all colors are absorbed equally by these cells (Davison et al. 1966). Researchers have suggested that cones function more efficiently during daytime hours. Cone cells contain pigments that are color sensitive, which is how turkeys can see colors (Davison et al. 1966). This study suggests that the retina of the eye in turkeys works in much the same way as other birds do when it comes to light absorption and processing (Davison et al. 1966).

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Turkeys can detect and judge distance. It has been shown that turkeys can not only see predators and other types of dangers, but the birds also have the ability to believe how far these threats are from them (Caro 1994). This means that when a turkey is startled by a perceived threat, it will take into account the estimated distance to the threat. It has been found that turkeys can do this even when the danger is behind them (Caro 1994). This means that turkeys have the ability to calculate how far they need to fly in order to escape a perceived danger, which would be very helpful if the turkey was being pursued by a predator on land or in the air (Caro 1994). This study also found that if a turkey has to choose between two paths of escape, the bird is more likely to follow the path it believes will be the shortest (Caro 1994).


Given the many different aspects of a turkey’s senses that have been reviewed in this article, it is clear that a sense of smell plays an important role when it comes to protecting the bird from potential predators. This is why hunters must consider scent control products to help mask their human odor and make it more difficult for the turkeys they are hunting to detect them.Turkeys are able to see predators in virtually every direction, allowing the bird to avoid danger even when its back is turned. This means that hunters must take into account not only what they can see if they want to be successful at their hunting activity but also what turkeys can see from their vantage point in trees or on the ground.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>