Wild Turkey

(Meleagris gallopavo)

Range: United States and Mexico, introduced to Canada, Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia and parts of Europe.

Subspecies: Mexican Wild Turkey (M. g. gallopavo) - Occurs in southern Mexico, ancestor of domesticated turkeys; distinguished by white tail-tips. Gould's Wild Turkey (M. g. mexicana) - Northwest Mexico to southern Arizona & New Mexico; the largest race, also with white tail-tips. Eastern Wild Turkey (M. g. silvestris) - Most numerous race, found throughout the eastern and central US and southern Canada, has been introduced into areas of the western US as well; distinguished by buff tail-tips. Florida Wild Turkey (M. g. osceola), sometimes known as the Osceola Turkey, is the smallest race and resembles silvestris, but somewhat darker; occurs in Florida. Rio Grande Wild Turkey (M. g. intermedia) - Found naturally in Kansas south through Texas to northwest Mexico, introduced to Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and California; tail-tips light buff. Merriam's Wild Turkey (M. g. merriami) - Occurs in the Rocky Mountain states of Colorado and New Mexico, introduced into parts of Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon & Washington; tail-tips very light buff, lower back with more white feathers than other races.

Habitat: Varied, depending on race. Primarily open woodlands.

Status in Wild: The Wild Turkey is one of America's great conservation success stories. Hunted to near extinction in the early years of the 20th Century, restocking and conservation efforts have helped the turkey to reach near abundant status in some locations. The subspecies in Mexico, however, are rare and exact status is not clear.

Avicultural Data

Status in Aviculture: Not so much an "aviary" subject, turkeys (in their domestic form) are a common sight in the farmyard. The various races of Wild Turkeys are kept in fairly good numbers.

Breeding Season: Late February to May.

Clutch Size: Average of 10-12 spotted eggs.

Incubation Period: 27-28 days.

Misc. Aviculture Notes: Large birds and require a great deal of room in an aviary setting. Many keepers will allow turkeys free range, but keep in mind that Wild Turkeys can fly very well.

Females typically responsible for nesting on their own with no help from the tom. Wild Turkeys are polygamous and several hens can be kept with one tom. Chicks can fly quite well at a young age. No special diet requirements, although they are fond of acorns and other native foods if you can provide it. Keeping the individual subspecies pure would be an interesting avicultural challenge.


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Photo Credits
(l to r): 1-2, Vonnon Cowell; 3, Dan Cowell.

Bibliography and Further Reading


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