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The Kid Should See This

How Joe Hutto parents and talks with wild turkeys

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My Life as a Turkey is the heart-warming tale of Joe Hutto, a man who raised sixteen wild turkeys from eggs to fully fledged birds. This film follows the growing birds, as Joe did, through the oak groves and cypress swamps of Florida. Seen through the young bird’s eyes and told through Joe’s heartfelt diary entries, this film meets the individual characters, gains a remarkable insight into the complexities of turkey behavior and reveals these birds are far from stupid.

Naturalist Joe Hutto makes sure the newly-hatched turkey babies imprint onto or bond with him so that they’ll follow him, giving him the ability to teach them and keep them safe. He locks eyes with the newborns in the video above.

baby turkey

Joe Hutto used this sensitive time period to become the parent to his flock. When the poults are born, the first thing they do is look about for a parent to bond to. They are attracted to movement, sound and smell. Joe used all three of these to reinforce the poults attachment to him as their mother. While they were incubating, he spoke to them, in both “turkey” and English, to get them used to the sound of his voice. When the poults hatched, he was positioned to be the first thing they would see. When the first poult emerged, he made his turkey sound and, as Joe recounts, the poult turned its head, its eyes met Joe’s and “something very unambiguous happened in that moment.” A connection had been made.

Below, he continues to bond with the young wild turkeys by learning their specific coos and calls.


listening turkeys
Related reading in The New Yorker: Talking Turkey – The man who communicates with gobblers and PBS’ Q&A with Naturalist Joe Hutto.

Next: How Birds Get Oxygen Inside Their Eggs, a Kiwi chick hatches from an egg at Auckland Zoo, and hummingbird hatchlings with mother Rosie.

Plus: Videos about animal communication: Decoding the language of Prairie Dogs and How to Birds Learn to Sing?

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