Wild Turkey

QUICK FACTS

Scientific Name

Meleagris gallopavo

Species Survival Plan

No

Habitat

Open woodlands with clearings, forest edges, brushy areas and semiarid mountains in the American Southwest

Predators

Man, coyote, fox, bobcat, owl, hawk, eagle, feral dog
At nest site - raccoon, skunk, snake, opossum, feral cat

Food

Acorns, seeds, fruit, nuts, insects, grasshoppers and small invertebrates

Originally Native To

North America

Height

37 - 46 inches

Weight

16 lb.

Characteristics

Turkeys have small heads, round wings and long tail feathers with dark iridescent body feathers and bare heads with pink and blue coloration

Gestation Period

27 - 28 days

Offspring

4 - 17 eggs

Birth Season

June - August

Lifespan

Wild 3 - 4 years
Captivity 10 - 12 years

Social Behavior

Polygamous

iucn_badge_least_concern

About Wild Turkey

Wild turkeys are the largest North American game bird and the fowl that was Benjamin Franklin’s choice for America’s national bird. They are related to grouse, quail and pheasants. There are six subspecies of wild turkeys in the United States with the Rio Grande subspecies being the primary one found in Texas.

At one time, habitat loss and diseases spread by native poultry came close to wiping them out. During the 1940s, an introduction program was instigated that has proven most successful.

Wild turkeys are poor fliers. They usually run rather than fly from danger and can run about 25 mph. They spend the early morning and late afternoon foraging before frequently flying into trees to roost at night.

People tend to think of turkeys with their tail feathers fanned out. This is the male’s courtship display that accompanies his gobbling, which can be heard up to a mile away, and strutting in hopes of attracting a mate.

There are two major characteristics that distinguish males from females: spurs and beards. The spurs can grow to almost two inches and the beards are a prized trophy for some hunters.

In most areas, the nest can be found in a shallow dirt depression, concealed in grass or shrubs. The female builds the nest and lines it with dead leaves and grass.

She lays an egg per day until she reaches a clutch of 8-15 eggs, which she incubates for 27-28 days. A newly hatched brood must be ready to leave the nest within 12-24 hours to feed.

The male turkey takes no role in their upbringing. Mothers will feed the poults (young turkeys) for just a few days before they must take responsibility for their own foraging. Young will stay with their mothers, sometimes combining with other family units, throughout the winter.

Of all domesticated fowl, only the turkey and the Muscovy duck originated in the New World.

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As a private nonprofit corporation, Fossil Rim does not receive national or state government support. Every cent spent or donated here goes in some way, directly or indirectly, toward the care of our animals.