Wild turkey

Wild turkey
Meleagris gallopavo
(Photo from Wikipedia)

Common name:

Order Galliformes
Family Meleagrididae

The wild turkey originates from the eastern United States, southern Canada, and Mexico, but currently occurs throughout most of North America. They have also been introduced to Hawaii, New Zealand and Germany. The Mexican subspecies M.g. gallopavo originated the domestic turkey which is kept as a farm animal throughout the world.

These large birds are 110-115 cm long and have a wingspan of 125-144 cm. Males are considerably larger than females. They weigh 6,8-11 kg while females weigh just 3,6-5,4 kg.


Wild turkeys prefer broad-leaved and mixed conifer and broad-leaved forests with scattered openings such as pastures, fields, orchards and seasonal marshes. They can also be found in swamps, mesquite grasslands and chaparral.

These birds have a very diverse diet, eating fruits, seeds, acorns, nuts, tubers, bulbs, and greens of locally common plants, but also animals such as snails, spiders, millipedes, grasshoppers and salamanders.

Wild turkeys breed in March-June. The female scratches out the nest, a shallow depression in dead leaves or vegetation on the ground, surrounded by dense brush, vines, tangles, deep grass, or fallen tree tops. There she lays 4-17 tan or buff white eggs with reddish spots, which she incubates alone for 25-31 days. The precocial chicks leave the nest within 12-24 h of hatching and are able to feed themselves, but the female will brood them at night for the next 2 weeks and will defend them from predators. The young only become fully independent 4-10 months after hatching.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and a global population estimated at 1,3 million individuals. The population has undergone a large increase over the last 40 years, equating to a 270% increase per decade.

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