Wildlife Identification Guide

Upland Game Birds

Wild Turkey
Meleagris gallopavo

Description

Males (toms) measure about 48" tall, while females (hens) are about 36" tall. Wild turkey are brown in color, barred with black, with iridescent feathers. The head and neck are unfeathered with blue and red wattles. They have a fan-shaped tail with chestnut, buff, or white tail tips. Toms have spurs and a long beard on their breast. Hens are smaller and lack the spurs. However, a small percentage of hens will also have a beard.

Voice

Wild turkeys make gobbling sounds similar to the calls made by domestic turkey.

Habitat

Wild turkeys are usually found within oak woodlands, pine-oak forests, and open fields.

Food

Acorns and other mast (hard fruit), fleshy fruits, corn, a variety of seeds, and invertebrates. Young turkeys in particular feed heavily on insects.

Nesting

Wild turkeys will lay anywhere from 8 to 14 eggs at the rate of about one per day. Eggs are kept in a shallow depression that's lined with leaves, grass, and straw. The eggs are buff-colored and spotted with brown.

Range

Wild turkeys range from the southern United States from Arizona east, and north up to New England. Wild turkey were also introduced to many western states such as Oregon and California.

Additional Information

  • Wild turkeys were hunted almost to extinction by the end of the 19th century. However, protection and restocking programs are helping this bird make a comeback.
  • Wild turkeys have well developed instincts for survival, and they have excellent eyesight and hearing. This is why few predators are able to catch the wild turkey.
  • Roosting often occurs over water due to the protection this offers.
  • Wild turkeys are polygamous. Toms gobble and strut with their tail fanned to attract their harem.
  • Wild turkeys may range over several square miles in a single day.
  • The tracks of an adult tom are six to seven inches long; adult hen tracks are four and one-half to five inches long.

Credits: eNature.com

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