Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)


Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family:    Meleagrididae
Size:    Length: 36 to 48 inches (90 to 120 cm) 
Weight: 36 to 121 pounds (16.5 to 55 kg)
Diet: Seeds, tubers, bulbs, plant greens, nuts, fruit, berries, snails, spiders, salamanders and insects 
Distribution: North America
Young:  4 to 18 chicks, once a year
Animal Predators:  Foxes, bobcats, coyotes, weasels, minks and raccoons
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Chick or Poult  Female: Hen   Male: Tom  Group: Flock or Rafter
Lifespan: 5 to 12 years 



     Wild turkeys were transported to Europe in the 16th century by Spanish explorers.

     They were first called turkeys by English people who did not realize the birds were from Americathey thought they had come from Turkey. 


Male wild turkeys have dark, shiny feathers covering their back. The flight feathers are mostly black with brown and white stripes, while their tail feathers are dark brown, surrounded by a ridge of black, tipped by a ridge of white or red. Their blue head is bare, with wattles, or fleshy growth, extending from the red throat. There is also a caruncle, which consists of a bumpy growth on the upper forehead. Females are smaller, with a grey head, no wattles and duller feathers. 



Wild turkeys are native to North America and range from southern portions of Canada to the southern states of the United States. They can be found in areas that provide them with shelter from predators, such as forests, combined with pastures, swamps and orchards, to provide them with food. They graze in fields and forests during the day and roost in trees at night. 


Feeding Habits

Wild turkeys eat a wide variety of food, depending on the season. They eat mainly seeds and grass, but will also eat insects, small amphibians and grasshoppers. When various fruits, nuts and berries come into season, they feed on those. In fall, they forage in flocks for food that are high in fat, such as nuts, seeds, worms and insects, which they swallow whole. The food is ground up after swallowing, when it passes through the gizzard. They spend most of the day searching for food, as they need to store fat for winter, when food supplies will be scarce. 



In early spring, males attract females by gobbling, strutting and fanning out their tail feathers. Male usually mate with more than one female. The gestation period lasts two to three weeks. Hens choose a spot within thick bushes or deep grass and make their nest on the ground by scratching a shallow depression in the earth. Sometimes more than one female will lay eggs in the same nest, so that they can take turns incubating the white, brown-spotted eggs and going out to find food. Approximately 28 days later, the eggs hatch. The young poults are covered in soft down and feed from their yolk sac until they can feed themselves. The day after birth, they can walk, and two days later, they are able to follow their mother as she shows them where they can find food sources such as small insects. Wild turkeys are sociable birds and several hens and their young may form large flocks. When the poults are between one and two weeks old, they begin to make short flights. The young males leave their mothers by late fall to join flocks of males, while the females stay until the next spring. 



Wild turkeys have acute eyesight and hearing. As well, they are fast runners and despite their appearance, are swift fliers, achieving speeds of up to 55 miles (88.5 km) per hour. They form mixed flocks in the fall. 



Wild turkeys were extirpated from several states in the U.S. due to pesticide use and reduction of habitat, but they have now been restored to most of their historic range. They are not a conservation concern.