We tried to warn you people last year that wild turkeys were clearly up to something. If this video doesn’t serve as a wake-up call, nothing will.
Twitter user @TheReal_JDavis posted a video Thursday morning showing a group of wild turkeys bizarrely circling a deceased cat in the street. People immediately started freaking out because come on, just look at this creepy video.
Are they holding a funeral in reverence of the feline? A protest over the sheer numbers of domestic turkeys whose lives are lost to the cat food industry?
Some social media users speculated that the birds could actually be turkey vultures, but Pat Leonard from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology told The Huffington Post that the birds are “definitely turkeys.”
Andrew Farnsworth, a research associate with the lab, told HuffPost that he’s not an expert in wild turkeys specifically, but his suspicion is that the circling is “some sort of mobbing behavior.”
“It would be a reasonable explanation to this that, despite being dead, the cat represents a threat to the turkey that should be driven away,” he said in an email. “So they are mobbing it in the same sense that crows and many other birds mob owls.”
He noted that it was very unlikely that the turkeys plan to eat the cat.
Other bird experts concur.
Alan Krakauer, biologist at the University of California, Davis, told The Verge that prey animals will sometimes approach predators to make their presence known and potentially scare away the predator. He noted that he’s seen turkeys behave similarly when confronted by a coyote.
And Geoff LeBaron of the National Audubon Society, admitted that the video was “pretty weird” but told HuffPost he’s seen circling behavior in turkeys due to both courtship and curiosity. Curiosity, he said, was more likely in this case.
“I suspect they recognize the cat as a potential predator, and are circling out of curiosity or wariness, just to make sure it stays dead,” he said.
This article has been updated with comment from Alan Krakauer and Geoff LeBaron.