In the column “Since You Asked” in every issue of BirdWatching, Contributing Editor Julie Craves answers readers’ questions about birds and bird behavior. Here is a question from our April 2015 issue:
Is it true that you can tell the sex of a Wild Turkey by the shape of its droppings? — Greta Wilson, Indianapolis, Indiana
Yes, fresh turkey droppings can often be used to determine if the producer was male or female. Male turkey poop tends to be elongated or J-shaped, while the female’s is like a spiral blob, more or less similar to a snail’s shell. The contrasting configurations arise from the different internal anatomy of male and female turkeys. Many anatomical differences are common to all birds, but the males of some species, including turkeys, have a rudimentary internal sex organ. Since the structure is located close to the waste stream, it may influence the shape of droppings.
About Julie Craves
Julie is supervisor of avian research at the Rouge River Bird Observatory at the University of Michigan Dearborn and a research associate at the university’s Environmental Interpretive Center. She writes about her research on the blog Net Results, and she maintains the website Coffee & Conservation, a thorough resource on where coffee comes from and its impact on wild birds.