Turkeys are so stupid...
So today (yesterday) is (was) Thanksgiving. Like many Americans I ate turkey and failed to give any thought to what I'm thankfull for. While eating that turkey I once again heard the old tale "I heard that turkeys are so stupid they will look up at falling rain until they drown". Of course I had heard that before and I thought: "Interesting, wonder if that is true". That is the deeply rooted reaction I normally have to these types of "facts". Old habits are hard to break but that is the way people worked back in the B.G. years (before Goggle). Tall tales would be told and travel person to person without anybody being able to collect facts on the story. Each person wouldn't know if the facts are true but not having an easy way to research it they would pass on the information themselves shrugging responsibility by prefacing their telling with "I heard...".
Well, like I said that was the bad B.G. days. I'm trying to rid myself of blind acceptance of "facts" and research things like this. So I once again consulted the great Google and discovered that in this case the tale is..... indeterminate.
According to snopes.com this "fact" is false because turkeys do not have binocular vision (eyes in front) they cannot look up at rain. They would need to look sideways. Ok, so that makes sense but does that mean that they never drown in rain? Tom Savage, a poultry scientist in the Oregon State University Animal Sciences Department, says that turkeys do appear to be looking at the sky but the behavior is a genetically-caused nervous disorder called tetanic torticollar spasms. However, PETA says that turkeys point their beaks skyward to streamline their bodies and therefore minimize exposure to rain. Ok, so turkeys may in fact appear point their beaks skyward but it is not because they are stupid it's either a nervous disorder or they are trying to keep them selves dry. But do they drown? Tom Savage, our OSU poultry expert, says he has never heard of this actually happening. The PETA website says it doesn't happen. Cecil Adams at straightdope.com says that young turkeys do die in rain but not from looking up. Instead they die from exposure because the young turkeys down is vulnerable to the effects of weather.
In contrast to all this according to University of Illinois at least some turkey experts speculate that turkeys are curiously looking at raindrops falling from the sky have been known to actually drown in this position because their tiny nostrils make the prefect receptacle for the falling rain. However, according to Howard Kaufman Turkey Farms and Shepherds Hill farm and Gardens they have raised turkeys outside and have never lost one to drowning in the rain. According to Aristotle's turkey facts turkeys can drown if they look up when it is raining. Karen Davis, PhD disagrees.
Ok, so we have to go to a score card:
|Tom Savage, Oregon State University Animal Sciences Department||X|
|Cecil Adams, straightdope.com||X|
|Anonymous turkey experts at University of Illinois||X|
|Howard Kaufman Turkey Farms||X|
|Shepherds Hill farm and Gardens||X|
|Aristotle's turkey facts||X|
|Karen Davis, PhD||X|
So 7 to 2 says that it's false. In all fairness Tom Savage, Howard Kaufman Turkey Farms, and Shepherds Hill farm and Gardens all say that the have simply never seen it happen but even without them it is still leaning towards a false.
So Google didn't provide a strait answer on this
one but I'm thankfully for the ability to do the research. I'm
also thankfully that in a few thanksgivings from now when my son asks me "Do turkeys
really drown in the rain." I can give him an informed answer rather then the
typical "I heard...". And the one thing I'm most thankful for
this Thanksgiving is, of course, my son.