Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bearded Hen

When you get a large enough population of an animal, you begin to see the broad spectrum of variations that can occur. One recognized oddity in the Wild Turkey world is the bearded hen. The turkey beard, a cluster of threadlike feathers growing from the center of the chest, is a normal feature of the adult male. It’s unusual to see a bearded hen, but it’s something that people who view a lot of turkeys are bound to observe.
The hen’s beard is usually less dense than that of the male. Hens also lack the spurs on the leg and have breast feathers with a light brown boarder. Healthy animal populations will show variations in both physiology and behavior. It’s these variations that give the population a survival advantage when adverse conditions occur. I don’t know what advantage the female beard might signify, but the bearded hen may be the next big evolutionary advance of the turkey.


  1. HI Steve..Well in people we might say there is testosterone and hormone problem hahaha!!
    I had an aunt that had such a problem as this,but not quite as bad as this hen...hahaha!!

  2. Very interesting. We have plenty of wild critters coming through our area, but no turkeys this close in the city.

  3. Very interesting indeed! I must admit I'm kind of fascinated by gender-bending animals like these. One occasionally hears about does with antlers, and it's fairly common for female mallards to develop some green head feathers when they get older.

  4. Hi, grammie g. I guess that's one of the consequences of getting older. With the average lifespan continually creeping up, it's hard telling what we'll eventually look like.

    Hi, Lois. Given the rate at which the turkey population is expanding, I wouldn't be surprised if Wild Turkeys were an urban yard bird in another 30 years.

    Hi, Rebecca. I guess any sexually dimorphic species is liable to have individuals that cross the line. It's just interesting to see it when it happens.

  5. Hey Steve, I reside in Reading, a City-Suburb of Cincinnati with a principle habitat composition of concrete, asphalt, brick and aluminum siding ;)...and yet a few days ago, at dawn, while sipping my morning coffee, I made out the silhouette of a large bird , pirched in our single tree. Low and behold, as the sun rose, a wild turkey fluttered down into my yard. I had to look twice and then thought ..thats a must really be lost!:)

  6. Hi, Michael. You're supporting my idea that Wild Turkeys will follow the deer and become an urban dweller. I wouldn't be surprised one day to hear that they are sitting outside people's back doors and begging for food.