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Tail Feathers

Tail Feathers -- How to Age Your Gobbler

-- by Rob Ramsdale --

The Jakes
A Group of Jakes

The tail feathers on a male turkey gobbler are really only useful in identifying jakes (1 year-old gobblers) from mature birds. When the tail feathers of a jake are fanned out, the middle 2 to 6 sets of primary feathers will be 2 to 4 inches longer than the rest of the feathers giving the fan a "bump" in the middle.

Jakes have the longer tail feathers because during the late summer molt a young gobbler goes through, he only replaces the middle primary tail feathers. In the second year, the tail molts in the standard adult pattern from the outside in and the gobbler will then have a full, even fan.

Once a bird reaches 2 years of age, he will have an even fan for the rest of his lifetime. There are occasions when he will lose a tail feather or get one broken off. In those cases he will quickly grow another in it's spot so it is possible to see a mature bird with an uneven, short tailfeather or two.

This "bump in the middle" tail fan characteristic is especially useful in determing the age of a strutting gobbler since you can determine quite easily if it is a mature bird or not from a long distance.

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