One of the more popular questions I get asked as a biologist is whether turkeys sleep in trees. It makes sense that people ask this question, given that wild turkeys spend much of the day on the ground foraging and aren’t good flyers. But the answer is, yes, turkeys do sleep in trees.
The reason for this behavior is that turkeys’ excellent vision wanes at night and they need to roost in trees for protection. Moreover, turkeys’ natural predators are more active at night. So by roosting in trees, turkeys are protected from their natural predators and also from harsh winter weather conditions.
In the wild, turkeys typically roost in hardwood trees like oak or hickory. They prefer a tree with a V-shaped structure to provide a stable platform for roosting. They may even change their roosts throughout the season depending on terrain, temperature, and species of tree. For example, eastern wild turkeys may tend to roost in pine or spruce trees as the winter progresses for added protection.
When turkeys are sleeping, they will be tucked in on their roost with their heads tucked under their wings. They will usually be standing on one leg and may even make snoring sounds. It’s important to understand this behavior because it helps in identifying a turkey roost site, especially when hunting or hiking in the wild. This knowledge can help hunters or hikers avoid stepping on any sleeping turkeys and prevents them from getting injured by accidentally kicking one of these large birds.