Beards & Spurs-What AreThey?

A turkey's beard isn't made up of hair. It is made up of keratin bristles. Keratin is a protein substance that forms the basis of hair, horns in animals and a turkey's beard. Many people believe a turkey's beard is a modified type of feather, but feathers molt (shed) and a beard doesn't. That might mean the beard isn't a modified feather. Almost all gobblers grow beards. Some hens do, too (one to 29 percent). A hen's beard is usually thinner and shorter (usually no longer than seven inches) than a mature gobblers. A gob- blers beard grows continuously during the bird's life. The beard is visible beyond the breast feathers of a tom at six to seven months of age. The beard is usually black . The thickness of the beard is determined by the number of keratin bristles in the beard. A beard grows about three to five inches per year. When the beard grows long enough to drag on the ground, the tips of the beard break off. Tall gobblers grow longer beards.

The spurs of a turkey are located on fhe lower third of the leg. Both hens and gobblers are born with a small button spur made up of smooth, shiny keratin. Usually, only male turkeys grow long spurs.The spur on a gobbler begins to grow soon after birth. With age, the spur changes shape from a round button to a sharp, pointed, curved shape. A gobblers spur grows to a maximum length of about two inches. Eastern and Florida wild turkeys usually have longer spurs than the western subspecies of wild turkeys. The adult turkeys spur has a bony center and a keratin cover. Most spurs are black, but some are black with red, pink or while coloring.


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