Wild TurkeyMeleagris gallopavo

Rolf Nussbaumer/VIREO
Rolf Nussbaumer/VIREO
adult female
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult male
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult male
Richard & Susan Day/VIREO
adult male
Charles A. Heidecker/VIREO
adult female with poult
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
immature (1st yr)
Arthur Morris/VIREO
Wild Turkey

Description

Male, 48" (1.2 m); female, 36" (91 cm). Unmistakable. Dusky brown, barred with black, with iridescent bronze sheen; head and neck naked, with bluish and reddish wattles; tail fan-shaped, with chestnut, buff, or white tail tips. Male has spurs and long "beard" on breast. Female smaller, lacks spurs and usually "beard." Domestic turkeys similar, but usually tamer and stockier.

Voice

Gobbling calls similar to those of domestic turkey.

Listen

female alarm calls #1
calls & gobbles at roost
female alarm calls #2

Habitat

Oak woodlands, pine-oak forests.

Range

Resident in much of southern United States from Arizona east, as far north as New England. Introduced to many western states, including California.

Discussion

Although the Wild Turkey was well known to Native Americans and widely used by them as food, certain tribes considered these birds stupid and cowardly and did not eat them for fear of acquiring these characteristics. By the end of the 19th century, the Wild Turkey had been hunted almost to extinction in much of its original range. Now, with protection, restocking programs, and the return of the mature forests favored by turkeys, this species is making a marked comeback. It is now common in areas where it was totally absent a few decades ago. Turkeys are swift runners and quite wary. They often roost over water because of the added protection that this location offers. They are polygamous, and the male gobbles and struts with tail fanned to attract and hold his harem.

Nesting

8-15 buff-colored eggs, spotted with brown, in a shallow depression lined with grass and leaves.

Similar Species

adult male

Plain Chachalaca

18-21" (46-53 cm). W. 26" (66 cm). Crow-sized. Olive-brown, with a long tail glossed with green and tipped with white. Slightly crested, with patches of bare, pinkish-red skin at sides of throat.

adult male

Ring-necked Pheasant

30-36" (76-91 cm). Larger than a chicken, with a long pointed tail. Male has red eye patch, brilliant green head, and (usually) white neck ring; body patterned in soft brown and iridescent russet.

Vireo

iPad Promo