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HomePet NewsBird News7 Birds That Look Like Turkeys (And How to Spot the Difference)

7 Birds That Look Like Turkeys (And How to Spot the Difference)


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A fascinating array of forms, colors, and behaviors exists in the diverse world of avian species. Among these, some birds bear an uncanny resemblance to the well-known turkey, often leading to mix-ups and misconceptions. The turkey, with its distinctive fan-shaped tail, large body, and impressive wattles, has a unique appearance often mimicked in the avian world. But, as close as these resemblances might be, these birds are not turkeys.

In this article, we will discover the doppelgängers of the turkey world and learn what sets them apart from this beloved bird.

Dusky Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus)

Usa, Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park. Dusky Grouse Bird Close-Up.
The habitat of the dusky grouse spans the mountainous regions of the American West, from the southeastern to the southern stretches of New Mexico.

©Danita Delimont/

The dusky grouse stands out as a fascinating doppelgänger of the turkey. This bird calls North America’s mountainous regions home. It often perplexes even the most experienced birdwatchers with its uncanny resemblance to the turkey. With a robust physique similar to its turkey counterpart, the dusky grouse is one of the largest grouse species. It typically weighs between 2 to 4 pounds and boasts an impressive wingspan of 24 to 28 inches. Males are often darker in color, a captivating blend of gray and blue, while the females don camouflaged attire with mottled brown and white feathers. Interestingly, such color differentiation is a trait also found among turkeys.

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The striking similarity between these two species is further accentuated during the breeding season. Male dusky grouse take on an exhibition reminiscent of their turkey counterparts; they puff up their bodies and fan their tail feathers in an enticing display to seduce the female. This spectacle, coupled with their size and coloration, can easily cause one to mistake a dusky grouse for a turkey.

Dusky grouse are omnivores, feasting on various plant materials, including leaves, buds, berries, insects, and flowers. During winter, they sustain themselves on conifer needles, echoing the turkeys’ survival strategy of resorting to a plant-based diet when other food resources dwindle.

The habitat of the dusky grouse spans the mountainous regions of the American West, from the southeastern to the southern stretches of New Mexico. They prefer coniferous forests and alpine meadows, particularly during the summer months. As winter approaches, they descend to lower elevations within forested habitats. This adaptability to diverse habitats aligns with the turkeys’ environmental versatility, further solidifying the similarities between these two distinct species.

How To Spot The Difference

While the dusky grouse and turkey share certain similarities, several distinguishing features set them apart. While dusky grouse can be a large grouse, turkeys are significantly more prominent, with mature birds weighing between 7 to 30 pounds, as opposed to the typical weight of 2 to 4 pounds of a dusky grouse. Coloration also differs, with turkeys displaying a more colorful iridescence, particularly in males, while dusky grouse males are primarily blue-gray.

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Physical features also aid in distinguishing between these two species. Male turkeys have a bald head and display a wattle and snood, which are absent in dusky grouse. A wattle is the part that hangs from the head or neck, and a snood is the part that hangs over the bird’s beak from the forehead. The tail feather arrangement is another tell-tale sign, with turkeys having a whole, rounded fan with a distinctive band of color at the feather’s end, whereas the dusky grouse’s tail forms a half-circle.

Behavioral differences such as flight and vocalizations also help set them apart. Turkeys are strong but unagile flyers and spend most of their time on the ground, while dusky grouse are more adept at flying through their forested habitats. In addition, the vocalizations of turkeys, including the iconic gobble, differ significantly from the dusky grouse’s unique, low-pitched hooting sound.

Greater Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido)

Male Greater Prairie Chicken Performing Courtship Display
They have short legs, small heads, short tails, and round wings.

©Danita Delimont/

The greater prairie chicken is another bird species that resembles the turkey. Native to the tallgrass prairies of North America, this bird is noted for its sizeable, round body, broad wings, and strong legs, mirroring the general silhouette of a turkey.

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In terms of appearance, the greater prairie chicken is covered in barred plumage of brown and white, which can remind one of the patterns seen in some turkey species. The males possess a unique feature – orange air sacs on the sides of their necks, which they inflate during their theatrical courtship display. This display is similar to male turkeys’ tail feathers and strut fan during mating season.

As for their diet, great prairie chickens are omnivorous, much like turkeys. They feed on various foods ranging from seeds, leaves, and fruits to insects and small invertebrates. This adaptability in the diet is a shared trait with turkeys, enabling both species to thrive in diverse environments.

The greater prairie chicken is typically found in native tallgrass prairies, a habitat distinctly different from the forested habitats favored by turkeys. However, their shared preference for open areas for foraging and nesting establishes another common ground between the two species.

How To Spot The Difference

Turkeys are much bigger, with males reaching up to 4 feet, while the greater prairie chicken typically measures only about 16 to 18 inches long. In terms of color, turkeys often display more iridescent hues, whereas the prairie chicken has more subdued, barred brown and white feathers.

A turkey’s head is also distinctive, bearing wattles and a snood, features not present in the greater prairie chicken. The prairie chicken’s unique orange air sacs on the sides of its neck, which inflate during courtship displays, are not found in turkeys.

Lastly, the distinctive “booming” call of a male greater prairie chicken is a clear auditory signal that sets it apart from the sounds produced by turkeys, including gobbles and clucks.

Greater Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus)

Greater Sage Grouse Male, One Of The Endangered/Threatened Bird Species In The Us,Performing Mating Display On Lek (Breeding Ground).
One of the most striking features of male sage grouse is their large white ruff and inflated yellow chest sacs.

©Nattapong Assalee/

The greater sage grouse is another fascinating bird resembling the turkey, primarily due to its substantial size and specific display behavior. It’s one of the largest grouse species native to North America, and its robust body and broad wings mirror the overall form of a turkey.

The sage grouse’s plumage is a mottled brown, black, and white, offering camouflage protection similar to some turkey species in their habitats. One of the most striking features of male sage grouse is their large white ruff and inflated yellow chest sacs, which they display during elaborate mating rituals. Though quite different in specifics, these displays are reminiscent of the turkey’s ostentatious courting behavior.

The greater sage grouse, like the turkey, is an omnivore. They primarily feed on sagebrush (which accounts for up to 99% of their winter diet) but will also eat insects, buds, and other plant matter when available. This ability to adapt their diet according to seasonal availability mirrors the turkey’s dietary habits.

The sage grouse is uniquely adapted to the sagebrush ecosystem of the western United States and southern Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada. This contrasts the more forested habitats typically favored by turkeys, but the species have a shared preference for ground nesting.

How To Spot The Difference

Size is a clear differentiator between these two similar birds. Turkeys are generally much larger compared to the sage grouse, which typically only reaches about 30 inches long. Turkeys often present a more colorful and iridescent plumage, while sage grouse have subdued, mottled brown, black, and white feathers. The presence of a bald head is a characteristic feature of male turkeys, features absent in the sage grouse. Moreover, turkeys do not have the unique sizeable white ruff and inflated yellow chest sacs displayed by male sage grouse during courtship rituals.

Lastly, their preferred habitats differ, with sage grouse thriving in sagebrush ecosystems and turkeys typically favoring forested areas.

Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus)

Ruffed Grouse
Female Ruffed Grouse standing on the forest floor on a frosty fall morning.


Inhabiting the forests of North America, the ruffed grouse is medium-sized, and its round body and full, fan-like tail bear similarities to a turkey.

Appearance-wise, the ruffed grouse features mottled brown, gray, and white plumage that provides excellent camouflage in the underbrush, similar to the camouflage tactics of some turkey species. Its most distinguishing feature, and the one giving the bird its name, is the “ruff” or tuft of feathers around its neck, similar to the ruff seen in male turkeys during their courtship displays.

When it comes to diet, the ruffed grouse, like the turkey, is omnivorous. Depending on the season, it feeds on various foods, including leaves, fruits, and insects.

Ruffed grouse inhabit diverse forested habitats across North America, from the Appalachian Mountain range in the East to the Rocky Mountains in the West. They particularly favor young, dense forests for their cover and abundant food resources, a preference that aligns with turkeys’ affinity for diverse habitats that provide ample food and shelter. However, despite these similarities, the ruffed grouse and turkey are different species, each with unique traits and adaptations that suit their specific environments and lifestyle.

How To Spot The Difference

The most notable difference is size. Turkeys are much larger, while ruffed grouse typically measures about 16 to 20 inches. The turkey’s plumage is more iridescent, with coloration varying from copper to green and even blue, whereas the ruffed grouse is mottled brown, gray, and white.

While both birds have a “ruff” or tuft of feathers around their neck, the ruff in the ruffed grouse is less dramatic than the one displayed by male turkeys during courtship.

Furthermore, the turkey’s distinctive gobble and other vocalizations differ from the ruffed grouse’s drumming sound.

Ring-Necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

Ringneck Pheasant (Phasianus Colchicus)
Ring-necked pheasants inhabit various habitats, including agricultural fields, grasslands, and brushy areas.

©Piotr Krzeslak/

Originating from Asia but widely introduced in various parts of the world, including North America, the ring-necked pheasant shares a similar general body shape and size to the turkey. In terms of appearance, the male ring-necked pheasant displays vibrant and iridescent plumage characterized by a mix of copper, green, and gold colors. This colorful display is reminiscent of the vivid hues seen in male turkeys. Additionally, male pheasants possess a prominent neck ring, similar to the turkey’s distinctive features.

Regarding diet, both the ring-necked pheasant and the turkey are omnivorous, consuming a varied diet. They feed on a combination of plant matter, such as seeds, berries, leaves, insects, and small invertebrates.

Habitat preferences also demonstrate some overlap between these two birds. Ring-necked pheasants inhabit various habitats, including agricultural fields, grasslands, and brushy areas. While turkeys often inhabit forested regions, they can also be found in open fields and wood edges. This adaptability to different habitats is a common characteristic exhibited by the two species.

How To Spot The Difference

As usual, size is a notable factor. Turkeys are considerably larger birds. Ring-necked pheasants, although still large, are still smaller, typically measuring around 3 feet long, including their tail. The plumage coloration is another crucial distinction, with turkeys displaying iridescent shades. Male ring-necked pheasants exhibit a vibrant mix of copper, gold, and green with a distinctive white neck ring. Additionally, turkeys possess their well-known bare head, features absent in the ring-necked pheasant.

Vocalizations differ significantly as well, as turkeys produce characteristic gobbling sounds, whereas ring-necked pheasants emit a crowing call.

Sooty Grouse (Dendragapus fuliginosus)

Sooty Grouse Taken In Whistler, Bc, Canada
Male sooty grouse inflate their bright yellow air sacs in courtship displays, mirroring the behavior of male turkeys.


Found in western North America, the sooty grouse is similar in shape to a turkey, with a stout body, rounded wings, and a fan-shaped tail. Male sooty grouse have a dark gray coloration, while females display mottled brown feathers, resembling the variations in turkey genders.

During the breeding season, male sooty grouse inflate their bright yellow air sacs in courtship displays, mirroring the behavior of male turkeys.

Sooty grouse primarily feed on plant materials like buds, leaves, berries, and flowers and resort to conifer needles in winter; a strategy also shared with turkeys during lean periods.

These birds inhabit diverse forested habitats, including coniferous forests, mountains, and coastal areas, echoing the adaptability of turkeys to various environments.

How To Spot The Difference

Distinguishing between a turkey and a sooty grouse is based on specific characteristics. Turkeys are larger, while sooty grouse are notably smaller. While turkeys can reach up to 4 feet long. Sooty grouse are around 20 inches in length and weigh up to 3 pounds.

Their coloration also differs. Turkeys are known for their colorful plumage, sooty grouse have a sooty gray or mottled brown plumage. Male sooty grouse have yellow air sacs during courtship, while turkeys possess distinctive head features like wattles and a snood.

Vocalizations also vary, with turkeys gobbling and sooty grouse emitting low-pitched hooting calls.

Guinea Fowl (Numididae)

Close Up Of Crested Guineafowl
Habitat preferences for guinea fowl vary depending on the species.

©tristan tan/

The guinea fowl also shares specific characteristics with the turkey, contributing to their resemblance. Like turkeys, these birds have a compact and robust body structure with rounded wings and a distinctive fan-shaped tail. However, their appearances differ. Guinea fowl are known for their unique feather patterns, featuring speckles and spots in shades of black, white, and gray.

Both guinea fowl and turkeys are omnivorous. They have a varied diet that includes insects, seeds, fruits, and vegetation. This adaptable feeding behavior aligns with the turkey’s omnivorous nature and ability to consume various food sources.

Habitat preferences for guinea fowl vary depending on the species, but they are commonly found in savannahs, grasslands, and scrublands. On the other hand, turkeys are native to North America and are typically found in a range of habitats, including woodlands, forests, and open fields. Despite their habitat differences, both guinea fowl and turkeys exhibit an affinity for terrestrial environments.

How To Spot The Difference

Turkeys are generally larger birds, while guinea fowl are smaller. The average guinea fowl weighs up to 3.5 pounds and are 2 feet tall and 30 inches long. Additionally, guinea fowl exhibit unique feather patterns with speckles and spots in black, white, and gray. Turkeys have more uniform plumage.

Habitat is another distinguishing factor. Turkeys are native to North America, while guinea fowl are commonly found in various parts of Africa.

Summary of Birds That Look Like Turkeys

Bird Similarities Differences
Dusky Grouse Size, diet, mating habits, coloration in some cases Coloration, turkeys have bald heads, flying abilities
Greater Prairie Chicken Silhouette of a turkey, similar patterns, diet Size, coloration, mating habits
Greater Sage Grouse Wing shape, coloration, diet Size, feathers, turkeys have bald heads
Ruffed Grouse Feathers around necks, diet Size, coloration
Ring-necked Pheasant Body shape, diet Size, coloration
Sooty Grouse Similar shape, mating rituals Size, sooty grouse features yellow sacs on the chest
Guinea Fowl Body shape, diet Size, coloration, habitat

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