Wild Turkey - Meleagris gallopavo
The wild turkey is a large ground-dwelling bird that is 36-44 inches in length. It has a large, fan-shaped tail; long, stocky pink or gray legs; short, rounded wings; a bare head and neck; and a small, down curving bill.
The female's breast feathers are tipped with brown, white, or gray. She doesn't have spurs and she usually doesn't have a beard. She has a gray head and a feathered neck. Males are usually larger than females. In the east, the tip of the turkey's tail is brown. In the southwest, the tail tip is white. The wild turkey's call is a gobble!
The wild turkey is found throughout the eastern United States from extreme southern Canada south to northern Mexico and east to Arizona. It is also found in isolated pockets in some western states where it has been introduced.
The wild turkey lives in hardwood and mixed conifer-hardwood forests with openings like fields, pastures, orchards, and marshes.
The wild turkey is an omnivore. It eats acorns, nuts, seeds, fruits, insects, buds, fern fronds, and salamanders. It usually forages on the ground in flocks, scratching in the earth to uncover food. The wild turkey feeds during the day. It roosts in trees at night.
Wild turkeys mate in the early spring. The male wild turkey gobbles to attract a female. He fans out his tail, struts around the female, and lowers his wings and drags the tips on the ground. The male's gobble is so loud it can often be heard a mile away! The male mates with more than one female.
The chicks or poults are covered with down at birth and leave the nest shortly after hatching. The chicks are precocial and feed themselves shortly after birth. The male poults stay with their mother through the fall. Female poults remain with their mother until the next spring.
The wild turkey is one of only two native North American birds that has been domesticated. The other is the Muscovy duck. By the end of the 19th century, the wild turkey had been hunted almost to extinction in much of its original range. Today, the wild turkey has been re-established in much of its original range.
Audio Credit: xeno-canto.org Mary Beth Stowe