Of Turkeys and Terrestrial Temperatures: A Tale of Climate Science Oddities

In the grand halls of climate change research, where heroic scientists tirelessly study hypothetical modeled dangers of rising sea levels, disappearing ice caps, and extreme weather events, we now find a new champion. A bird. Not just any bird, mind you, but the humble turkey – yes, the bird that graces our tables at Thanksgiving and inspired Benjamin Franklin’s respect.

In a, not very fascinating, new study from North Carolina State University, researchers have presented their concern that climate change might be a threat to turkey reproduction, mainly because turkeys might not change the timing of their nesting to match shifts in climate. In other words, they fear that while the Earth might warm up, the turkeys will keep cool, staying resolute in their reproductive timing.

So, the research team embarked on an eight-year study that involved capturing female turkeys, attaching GPS transmitters, monitoring the turkeys remotely, and correlating this turkey data with weather data.

And what was the momentous conclusion of this study? Well, they found that changes in temperature and rainfall did cause turkeys to change their nesting times slightly. However, these changes were measurable in hours, not days. Under two climate-change scenarios, the timing of successful nests would shift by less than three hours. Essentially, the turkeys just hit the snooze button on their biological clocks.

This whole idea of “phenological mismatch,” where the turkeys’ reproductive cycles don’t align with food and cover resources, is also a bit rich.

Turkeys are a highly adaptable species. They have survived and rebounded from near extinction due to overhunting and habitat loss. We have them all over North America. This resilience should earn them a bit of respect, perhaps even confidence in their ability to adapt to a hypothetical warmer climate, given their already vast range of climates in which they survive, rather than consigning them to potential doom based on a few hours’ delay in nesting time.

This study is a prime example of researchers getting lost in the weeds\. Instead of focusing on substantial, impactful environmental realities, we have spent eight years tracking turkeys and worrying about their nesting times. And while every aspect of our ecosystem is essential, perhaps there are more pressing concerns that need addressing.

In any case, rest assured, folks. Climate change or not, it appears our Thanksgiving dinners are safe. Now, if only we could find a way to get the turkeys to adapt to a lifestyle that involves less, you know, ending up on dinner plates.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ecochg.2023.100075

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July 16, 2023 10:12 pm

Haha… I know Spokane would like less turkeys.

another ian
July 16, 2023 10:43 pm

Turkeys studying turkeys?

Reply to  another ian
July 16, 2023 11:29 pm

The first lot vote for Xmas. The others dont

Reply to  alastairgray29yahoocom
July 17, 2023 3:40 am

Turkeys funding turkeys studying turkeys

Reply to  Meisha
July 17, 2023 12:58 pm

Birds of a feather.

Phillip Bratby
July 16, 2023 10:49 pm

The time and money wasted on studies of the non-impact of climate change must be ginormous.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Phillip Bratby
July 17, 2023 3:46 am

About the only charitable interpretation I can think of is that they couldn’t get funding to study nesting habits or whatever might be a legitimate question, but by rubbing a little Climate Change ™ on it, violá! Eight years of field studies financed.

Reply to  Rich Davis
July 18, 2023 11:40 am

Hit the Nail!

July 16, 2023 10:58 pm

Under two climate-change scenarios, the timing of successful nests would shift by less than three hours. 

OMG they managed to get a couple of hours shift using RCP8.5 (highly unlikely scenario according to the IPCC)

How on earth did this heap of garbage even get published?

July 16, 2023 11:15 pm

Who remembers Stan Freeberg “Presents the United States of America”?

Reply to  schmoozer
July 17, 2023 8:58 am

“I swear to God that I thought the turkeys would fly.”

Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
July 17, 2023 11:20 am

As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly
-Arthur C Carlson, 1978

Reply to  cc
July 17, 2023 1:00 pm

I don’t care who you are that there is funny.

July 16, 2023 11:55 pm

They must be bats.

Southampton University in the UK were disappointed to find that bats were quite adaptable to climate change:


I suppose that at the end of every year each species has slightly more or slightly fewer members – blame that on climate change and you have lots of opportunities to get grants to study – preferably in exotic locations. Usually accessed by jet plane.

July 17, 2023 12:29 am

Animals cannot survive without human help

That’s what they’d like you to believe

Reply to  strativarius
July 17, 2023 4:42 am

Yes. That’s because we are so much more intelligent. Especially people in universities.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  strativarius
July 17, 2023 6:12 am

yuh, a slightly different temperature and they’ll forget how to mate and find food

Right-Handed Shark
July 17, 2023 12:32 am

Where do these people get the idea that no species can exist more than 50 miles north or south of where they evolved? It seems they start with a conclusion and desperately try to winkle out the merest scrap of “evidence” to support it. Eight years of study with lots of expensive equipment, and god knows how many thousands of man hours of analysis, to conclude nothing of any interest to anybody. Not even the turkeys. Who approved the grant application?

Reply to  Right-Handed Shark
July 17, 2023 9:08 am

A turkey.

Reply to  Yooper
July 18, 2023 10:46 am

Off with his head.

Reply to  barryjo
July 18, 2023 11:42 am


Peta of Newark
July 17, 2023 12:41 am

Sums up climate science and ‘experts’ = The depth of their ignorance is mind-blowing – and yet they **think** they are fit people to Rule the World. sigh

Turkeys, like ‘conventional’ chickens (Jungle Fowl) and as stated are very adaptable critters, especially in what they can and do eat.
Hence their success, they ain’t beholden to any other critters and their climatic whims.

So, just like their Jungle Fowl cousins, stop and start their egg-laying dependant on only one significant variable = the amount of visible light.
Classically and for wild/outdoor birds= sunlight and ‘day-length’

It is how ‘egg-farmers’ manage their flocks and why the sheds the birds are kept in always have no windows = The farmer can manage the amount of light the birds get/see and thus how many eggs they make
For normal chickens, that figure is about 14 hours per day.

Less than that they stop egg-layingMore than 14 hours they start/continue egg-layingEven just a single candle will ‘fool’ them

So unless Climate Change is going to change the tilt of Earth’s axis – the turkeys ain’t going anywhere
Have none of these muppets ever wondered what the ‘Dawn Chorus‘ is about, what is it, why is is and when it happens – what planet are they on?

Reply to  Peta of Newark
July 17, 2023 1:30 am

they are fit people to Rule the World

They know, know in their bones, that once they are in control everything will fall into perfect alignment.

Peta of Newark
Reply to  Peta of Newark
July 17, 2023 1:39 am

Answers own question:
Headline:”Plan to crack down on ‘rip-off’ university degrees

Fine good lovely, no-one likes being ripped off.
There again, we have a Cause & Effect problem – are the ‘junk’ courses really junk?

Doubtless, Computers, AI, Climate Science etc similar will be among the courses NOT cracked down upon.
Presumably things like ‘Arts’, social sciences and media will be ##

The problem I see coming up with this edict is that courses comprising ‘junk’ and ‘rip-off’ are ones where students have ‘time to explore‘ while they’re at university – and if there isn’t a lot of exploring to do at a university then where is there?

As per the proverb, ‘Journeys are often/always vastly more interesting (educational) than the intended destination’

Whereas the ‘non-junk’ courses will be intense brainwashing sessions, chock full of trivia, minutia and ‘information’ and where students aren’t allowed time to think. experiment and explore.
Information is not Knowledge

## Remember my theory (I ain’t alone) and words on here about Autistic children.
About how they are incredibly ‘artistic’, good story tellers, are very ‘people oriented’ , immensely good memories and don’t tell lies….
but especially that
being autistic is a conscious choice
i.e. The kid gets to a certain age, 3 or 4 years, and by then has pretty-well sussed out the world and the people around it

And kid says to itself: “I hate this, I’m not going there”
and while it still can, throws a switch in its mind/brain that forever-more locks out the junk.
(Hence why it takes as long as that to actually diagnose the disorder)

We all know what The Junk is – the turkey story being a perfect example

It does hark way way back to the idea of a Classical Education.
Noooo, not one that avoids mindless dance music at all costs, quite the opposite = an education that gave a taster of myriad different (and seemingly unconnected) things.

The Classic Education and the Autistic love to explore & experiment, among real people/places and to gain their own knowledge = NOT what Rishi Sunak says they should.
Autistics are not just rebelling against junk science – even at age 3 they recognise Tyranny

Hence the problem with Rishi’s plan (as linked to above) – he’s going to create, exclusively, legions of Experts =
Folks who know everything about nothing and nothing about everything

…….. and all that is going to do is create ever greater mountains of Junk Science and Rip-Off Politics

oh dear. Science was supposed to save us.
(Was Eisenhower autistic – would you say he was a ‘people person’ or not)

Reply to  Peta of Newark
July 17, 2023 5:09 am

are the ‘junk’ courses really junk

Most courses are, now. Don’t forget, they’ve been decolonised etc etc etc. 2+2 really does equal 5

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Peta of Newark
July 17, 2023 6:16 am

Eisenhower (means – hoer of steel) was an interesting guy. Grew up on a farm and had a lot of common sense. He did work well with people- soldiers any way- found out being president wasn’t as easy.

Richard Page
Reply to  Peta of Newark
July 17, 2023 4:02 pm

Politics should be at #1 on the list of junk science courses to be trashed. Maybe we’ll then get some better politicians.

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Peta of Newark
July 17, 2023 7:27 am

Peta, go easy on the poor dears. They spend 8 years studying and then find it was all a complete waste of time. Devastating.

Reply to  Peta of Newark
July 17, 2023 10:07 am

I remember a turkey. The sodden and bedraggled bird was sticking to her nest behind the woodpile on a really nasty Easter weekend with heavy rain and sleet. This was about 100 miles north of Toronto.

July 17, 2023 12:53 am

To be fair. Isn’t a nul result a part of the scientific process? People in these pages complain (rightly) of too much reliance on models, and not enough solid data.

The more scientists do proper field work, and find no negative climate driven impacts, the better, surely?

Reply to  Hysteria
July 17, 2023 1:30 am

next study: how many cockroaches can live under one stone.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Hysteria
July 17, 2023 4:14 am

I tend to think it’s more a case of forcing the thesis to fit into the available funding.

I have an idea that needs eight years of field study. Is climate change making it less cool to own a BMW convertible?

Reply to  Rich Davis
July 17, 2023 6:30 am

It will only be cool if it is an EV

Rich Davis
Reply to  nhasys
July 17, 2023 1:16 pm

I’m willing to get stuck in the control group with a real car.

Reply to  Rich Davis
July 18, 2023 11:48 am

Only if the airconditioning doesn’t work.

July 17, 2023 1:26 am

a lifestyle that involves less, you know, ending up on dinner plates

It is a pity that wasn’t tracked, while they were at it. My wold guess is that relatively few wild turkey end up as holiday meals.

Quite possibly the attached tracking gear was a turn off for potential mates. A lot more convincing was required, and that takes time.

However, the remedy is clear; probably not another cabinet position but certainly a turkey mating agency to produce thousands of pages of new regulations on a regular basis.

Reply to  AndyHce
July 17, 2023 1:33 am

Also. many ‘wild’ turkeys now now live in he suburbs. Maybe they are just a bit shy and need to wait until the morning rush is over.

Tom Halla
Reply to  AndyHce
July 17, 2023 3:51 am

I did work in one Northern California suburb, and the flock of wild turkeys there were anything but shy.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Tom Halla
July 17, 2023 6:19 am

after all, they’re dinosaurs

if I see some in the forests- they’ll jump, flap their wings, make a lot of noise, fly away from me- and in seconds, they vanish- if you tried chasing them, you’ll lose them quickly- amazing since they’re huge

Tom Halla
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
July 17, 2023 7:20 am

These wild turkeys were about as calm as mallard ducks in a park.

Reply to  Tom Halla
July 18, 2023 10:55 am

There is a reason people are told to not feed the turkeys.

Steve Keohane
Reply to  AndyHce
July 17, 2023 8:43 am

I’ve got a mother and three chicks in my backyard right now.

PA Dutchman
Reply to  Steve Keohane
July 17, 2023 9:22 am

You must have hawks and foxes around for that small of a brood.

Steve Keohane
Reply to  PA Dutchman
July 17, 2023 10:57 am

Not to mention the bobcats, lynx and mountain lions…

Reply to  PA Dutchman
July 18, 2023 11:53 am

Not unusual at all. Our County has lots and lots of wild turkeys, and we quite often see a lone female bird feeding on its way thru our acreage (near the house), presumably, some of those lone birds have a nest not far away.

July 17, 2023 3:01 am

I don’t know what turkeys have done in the past with respect to winter and migration but … last winter we had a flock of about 30 roaming around our upper US Midwest suburban neighborhood. First time we’ve seen this in several decades of living here.

Global! Warming!

That was the same winter that I bought a snow blower … that I used once. A few more warm winters and it will have paid for itself in reduced heating bills.

Michael 63
July 17, 2023 3:23 am

Well, this study is on par with the several studies finding that a primate that currently live year-round everywhere on planet Earth – except under the sea, a few cold places without fuel to melt snow/ice and a few very hot places with no water – will die off when the local temperature rise a few degrees C. Bringing said temperature closer but not at same level as the equator.
In other words: STUPID studies done by “scientists” with a total lack of critical thinking ability!
Those “scienttists” are hilarious.

Rich Davis
July 17, 2023 3:40 am

Yeah this totally makes sense. Wild turkeys range from Bangor, Maine to Brownsville, Texas. How could they possibly adapt to a degree warmer?

comment image

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Rich Davis
July 17, 2023 6:58 am

That is exactly what I thought when reading this! That would have been the first thing I checked – what is the temperature change involved in their accepted range. If anything was studied, it should have been where spring nesting temps are the highest and where they are the lowest in order to see different habits based on temperature.

Reply to  Rich Davis
July 17, 2023 7:34 am

Map needs updating. We have lots of them here in UP of Michigan.

Steve Keohane
Reply to  mkelly
July 17, 2023 8:44 am

Same for Colorado…

Pat from Kerbob
Reply to  Steve Keohane
July 17, 2023 3:35 pm

They are here on canadian prairie

Ed Zuiderwijk
July 17, 2023 4:36 am

What a malarkey. But not as good as what a turkey farmer once told me: he would never let his birds out when it rained. Because they would figure that they could drink by bending their neck backwards and just open their beaks. Being turkeys however, It did not occur to them to close up again so they drowned.

Joseph Zorzin
July 17, 2023 6:10 am

Turkeys became extinct in Woke-achusetts due to land clearing and hunting. The following is from the state’s fish and wildlife web site.

Before European colonization of the Americas, the wild turkey was widespread in Massachusetts. Due to habitat loss, turkeys were extirpated from the state, and the last known native bird was killed in 1851. In the 1970s, MassWildlife biologists trapped 37 turkeys in New York and released them in the Berkshires. The new flock grew, in an ideal mixture of agricultural and forested lands, and by fall of 1978 the estimated population was about 1,000 birds. As more birds moved in from adjacent states, turkeys soon ranged throughout most parts of Massachusetts west of the Connecticut River. In-state transplants, conducted until 1996, continued to expand their range into central, northeastern, and southeastern areas of the state. In 1991, the wild turkey was named the state’s official game bird. Today the populations are estimated at between 30,000 and 35,000 birds! Under careful management, the future looks bright for turkeys. Sportsmen, naturalists, and other wildlife enthusiasts welcome their return. Wild turkeys are an important natural resource in Massachusetts. They are classified as game birds, for which a management program and regulated hunting seasons have been established.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
July 17, 2023 7:03 am

One of the least reported funding sources for this is hunters themselves. Hunting licenses, ammunition sales, etc. Lots of hunting organitions exist also.

July 17, 2023 6:27 am

They did this for only 8 years!!!!!!
It must have been a cheap grant.
Any study of this would need at least 40 years. By then the subject birds may have ended up on a dinner plate, or natural death.
These grant grabbing carbon based oxygen wasting entities should know 8 years is so small in studying animal/bird changes due to feed and climate it reeks of gross (well add your own words).

PA Dutchman
Reply to  nhasys
July 17, 2023 9:28 am

Excellent point. I never even thought about their lifespan. So, according to the webs, Turkeys generally have a lifespan of three to four years in the wild.

Does this mean two generations? Did the study replace the die off for a same sample size? I guess they will need a turn at the trough to confirm their results.

PA Dutchman
July 17, 2023 6:44 am

See, slap “climate change” on any grant proposal and you get the money. My experience with Eastern US turkeys has always been that hens will mate, build a sheltered raised nesting site as the night-time temperature rises. Then roughly two weeks after mating comes Spring Gobbler season. This is reflected by date and latitude change as one moves up the coast. This may have shifted earlier by a few days from Ben Franklin’s Little Ice Age weather but who cares. Flora and Fauna will progress and survive, no IPCC or wasted money needed.

July 17, 2023 8:15 am

Back in the real world, the turkeys we eat at Thanksgiving and Christmas are only vague relatives of the featured wild turkey.

I do have a relative that hunts wild turkeys in season, and eats them too — but I assure you, having been at guest at the wild turkey dinner, that the wild and ranched varieties are vastly different in flavor and texture (and somewhat in anatomy).

Domestically raised turkeys are hatched in incubators which are very carefully temperature ontrolled, brooded at just the right tightly-controlled humidity and temperature, and then fast-track grown on special feeds to make them the tender juicy turkeys served on our tables.

All that said, there is a lot of nonsense research being performed to attempt to verify a vague hypothesis that as season lengths change (which they do and have always done), that the natural world will get out of sync with itself. And maybe it has done at times of rapid change in the past — which, if so, would be one of the drivers of natural evolution.

July 17, 2023 8:57 am

It appears from the article that the scientists studied wild turkeys. Would it not be reasonable to study farmed turkeys? Of course, they wouldn’t necessarily last 8 years.

Rud Istvan
July 17, 2023 8:59 am

Several wild turkeys have graced the thanksgiving dinner table at my Wisconsin odairy farm. 11-12# jakes (that years hatch), which are much better tasting than the old 20+# toms hunted in the spring using turkey calls. Roasted on the big Weber kettle charcoal grill to perfection. Served with sides of potatoes and blanched/frozen ‘fresh’ green beans from the big farm garden. A traditional way to end the annual November deer hunt with family and friends.

Gunga Din
July 17, 2023 9:32 am

Reminds me of an old joke.
“In Plains Georgia they’ll be have peanuts for Thanksgiving this year.
They sent their Turkey to Washington.”

(Jimmy Carter era.)

July 17, 2023 9:54 am

I’m a supporter of Wild Turkey.

July 17, 2023 11:55 am

Wild turkeys may be native to some regions but they were transplanted to Oregon, along with Chinese pheasants, Nepalese chukars, and Hungarian grouse — transplanted by the State to sell hunting tags. It’s a bureaucratic business.

So now the fowls are an attractive nuisance. Every year feeble-minded, often drunk, “sportsmen” carrying loaded shotguns come wandering down my driveway hoping to shoot up the place. We’re in a rural residential zone, 5-acre minimum lots, with homes, children, pets, and livestock. The State Board of Fish and Wildlife doesn’t care about our safety so long as they get their $100 turkey tag fee.

The turkeys ravage gardens. They can’t be fenced out because they can fly, sort of. I have bird nets over my blueberries, which they test and sometimes rip into. No nets on the grapes, so the turkeys strip the vines before the grapes are ripe. They aren’t dissuaded by dogs, because turkeys are incredibly stupid.

When I suffer all the damage from these exotic pests, and read about rent-seeker pseudo scientists who value trash birds above people, I think wouldn’t it be nice to sell scientist tags. Maybe $100 per carcass, no bag limit.

July 17, 2023 2:48 pm

If this is what passes for climate change science we need a climate change science holiday, like a few decades.

Pat from Kerbob
July 17, 2023 3:33 pm

I thought climate change makes ALL the animals gay or trans or something and so soon there won’t be any mating worry about.


July 17, 2023 7:01 pm

Texas, Arkansas and Kentucky supplied many of the turkey re-introductions into states that had hunted their native populations out of existence.

Texan heat didn’t prevent turkeys from thriving in Texas.
The same goes for turkey populations in Mexico.

So, the research team embarked on an eight-year study that involved capturing female turkeys, attaching GPS transmitters, monitoring the turkeys remotely, and correlating this turkey data with weather data.”

Once again, researchers completely ignore that encumbering wildlife with huge heavy GPS equipment might harm their reproductivity far more than any alleged increased temperatures!

A few ounces on 12-16 pound hens are heavy obtrusive burdens.

John Hultquist
July 17, 2023 9:25 pm

There is a range map here:

However, most turkeys eaten in North America come from supermarkets and their range is even larger and more varied. On the other hand, they are not raised in markets, so you have to look here for the production numbers.

Michael S. Kelly
July 18, 2023 5:22 pm

During our July visit to our future retirement farm in Tennessee, I was delighted to see a family of turkeys heading for the woods as we drove in. Two adults, and at least six young ones. According to our neighbors, they’re flourishing on our property there.

Here in Virginia, our woods used to be home to turkeys, but we haven’t seen many at all. Lots of turkey vultures (and 37 other bird species), but not a lot of turkeys. I’m not sure why there’s a difference, but am glad to see that where we are headed is still a verdant place.

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