Talking Turkey: How The Bird Was Conserved (And What It Really Sounds Like)

Nov 19, 2019

Turkeys get to have their moment in November.  BPR shares some facts about the birds - and how a regional management plan helped spur the resurgence of turkey population. 

“Gooble Gooble” is not quite the sound turkeys make… 

(Turkey call)  

That was an assembly call. According to the National Wild Turkey Federation, it brings a flock together.  Chris Coxen is district biologist for the Federation in North Carolina.  He says turkeys have a multitude of calls. Many are imitated by hunters to lure the birds to them. 

“Basically you're using turkey calls to imitate the sound of a hen turkey. With the goal of luring in the toms. They’re the birds that gobble,” explains Coxen. 

Here’s what a gooble really sounds like. 

 (Gobble sounds) 

It’s primarily used by males to attract hens in the spring. Both sounds were shared by the National Wild Turkey Federation.

In the 1970s the North American turkey population was dangerously low. That’s what started the Federation.  At the time there were just over a million birds says Coxen. But after a rigorous repopulation plan - 

“It's estimated there's about 7 million turkeys now, you know, we see them all over Asheville, especially North Asheville. There are birds everywhere,” says Coxen. 

 The plan involved relocating birds to new areas to allow them to repopulate. Turkey restoration can be traced back to as early as the 1920s, according to the NC Wildlife Commission. 

One of the ways the Federation works to conserve turkeys and their habitats is being a part of the Nantahala Pisgah Forest Partnership. The group has worked with the U.S. Forest Service on the new Nantahala Pisgah Forest Plan which is coming out soon.  Forest Service representatives explain that the plan is in the internal review process but can’t confirm that it will come out this year. 

Coxen says he has mainly advocated for more diverse habitats in the National Forests. 


“Even though turkey is in the name but our members and, and certainly our conservation staff care about the whole suite of wildlife species and forest diversity,” says Coxen.  

A diverse habitat means that through forest management the national forest would make sure there is a mixture of young and old forest spaces for all different types of wildlife to thrive. 

The federation also advocates for hunting. There has been a decline in hunters in recent years which concerns the organization says Coxen, who adds that license fees paid by hunters is one of the biggest ways wildlife conservation is funded in North Carolina. 

“It's something that hunters are very proud of. And I think that there's a misconception that if you hunt something and want to harvest or kill an animal that you have maybe less respect for that animal's life,” says Coxen. 

Coxen admits that he didn’t hunt turkeys before working for the federation but he enjoys harvesting his own meat. He sees it as a part of the local food movement.