Wild Turkey

Meleagris gallopavo

Steve Bentsen

Wild Turkeys were here long before Europeans colonized America. They also should not be confused with their cousins, domestic turkeys (the ones you eat for Thanksgiving).

Wild Turkeys are thinner than domestic turkeys, and their tails are tipped with brown, not white.

Male Wild Turkeys grow to about four feet long. including the tail. Females grow to about three feet.

Males and females can be told apart by the breast feathers. Males' breast feathers have black tips, females are brown.

WPA

P. Meyer

Wild Turkeys live in open woodlands and forests with lots of clearings and meadows. They travel during the day looking for food.

Wild Turkeys eat a great variety of foods, including: insects, spiders, snails, slugs, salamanders, small lizards, small frogs, millipedes, grasshoppers, very small snakes, worms, grasses, vines, flowers, acorns, buds, seeds, fruits, clovers, dogwood, blueberries, cherries, hickory nuts, beechnuts, and other vegetation.

Wild Turkeys travel in small flocks. For most of the year, they are single-sex flocks. Females are with females, males with males. Young turkeys follow their mothers.

Wild Turkeys have good eyesight and hearing, and they are very fast runners.

Copyright, Hoss Firooznia

The breeding season is in March and April. A male turkey will try to find a female flock to make his harem.

To attract females, the male will gobble and strut, fanning out his tail. He will mate with several females in the flock.

Wild Turkey nests are made in the ground. A shallow depression is lined with leaves and covered up with vines and other plants. Ten to fifteen eggs are laid. Eggs are light brown, with black and dark brown spots. The female will sit on the eggs for a month are more. This makes her very vulnerable to predators.

Some predators that raid turkey nests include Raccoons, Red Foxes, Striped Skunks, crows, snakes, Virginia Opossums, chipmunks, and squirrels.

Young turkeys have many predators as well. Raccoons, foxes, snakes, owls, hawks, and other large birds will kill them.

Flocks of turkeys have a pecking order. Usually the oldest birds and the biggest birds rule over the younger and smaller birds.

Wild Turkeys do most of their traveling and eating in the daylight. At night they roost in trees, especially oaks and pines. Sometimes they roost over water for extra protection from predators. If they need to escape, Wild Turkeys are surprisingly fast fliers for their size.

Male turkeys are called gobblers, and females are hens. Young turkeys are poults.

Wild Turkeys do not hibernate or fly South. In the Winter, they will continue to roam in search of food. Their diet changes with the seasons, depending on what foods are available.

Wild Turkeys make a lot of different noises.

Copyright, Gregory Gough

Additional Media

Description
Type
Credit
Gobbler's Gobble
Sound
Unknown
Wild Turkey Cackle
Sound
VA Turkey.com
Wild Turkey "Cluck"
Sound
VA Turkey.com
Wild Turkey "Cutt"
Sound
VA Turkey.com
Wild Turkey "Gobble"
Sound
VA Turkey.com
Wild Turkey "Kee-kee"
Sound
VA Turkey.com
Wild Turkey "Kee-kee run"
Sound
VA Turkey.com
Wild Turkey "Lost Yelp"
Sound
VA Turkey.com
Wild Turkey "Purr"
Sound
VA Turkey.com
Wild Turkey "Fightng Purr"
Sound
VA Turkey.com
Wild Turkey "Yelp"
Sound
VA Turkey.com
Wild Turkeys Walking and Feeding
Video
Phil Heine
Wild Turkeys Running
Video
Phil Heine
Wild Turkey Feeding Alongside White-tailed Deer
Video
Phil Heine
Download Quicktime if you are unable to play video.

Relationships in Nature:

PREY/FOOD
PREDATORS
SHELTER
OTHER

Differential Grasshopper

Raccoon

Black Oak

Black Cherry D

Black Carpenter Ant

Red Fox

White Oak

Flowering Dogwood D

Field Cricket

Striped Skunk

Southern Red Oak

Poison Ivy D

North American Millipede

Virginia Opossum

Eastern White Pine

Virginia Creeper D

Red-backed Salamander

Common Crow

Virginia Pine

Eastern Redcedar D

Spring Peeper

Black Rat Snake

Loblolly Pine

Highbush Blueberry D

Black Oak

Copperhead

Poison Ivy

American Holly D

Mockernut Hickory

Red-tailed Hawk

Virginia Creeper

Wild Grape D

American Beech

Great Horned Owl

Common Cattail

Greenbrier D

Highbush Blueberry

Barred Owl

Smooth Sumac

Smooth Crabgrass D

Flowering Dogwood

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Cinnamon Fern

Smooth Sumac D

Leopard Slug

Eastern Chipmunk

Japanese Honeysuckle

Common Dandelion D

Poison Ivy

Human

Green Hawthorn

Evergreen Blackberry D

Virginia Creeper

Climbing Bittersweet

Green Hawthorn D

Black Cherry

Bigtooth Aspen

Chigger Pa

Rabid Wolf Spider

Common Dandelion

Earthworm

Eastern Redcedar

Relationship to Humans:

Wild Turkeys are very desirable to hunters. At one time, they were protected by law, since they had almost become extinct due to overhunting. Turkeys are now doing much better, and hunting is legal during certain seasons.

Wild Turkeys are also beneficial because of the many pests they eat, including insects, slugs, and snails.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Animal
PHYLUM
Chordate
CLASS
Bird
ORDER
Galliformes
FAMILY
Meleagrididae
GENUS
Meleagris
SPECIES
Meleagris gallopavo

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