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Species Description

Wild Turkey

Meleagris gallopavo


Species Image

Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Phasianidae

Description

The male has dark iridescent feathers overall, red wattles on the throat, and a dark tuft suspended from the breast. The female is duller than the male, lacks wattles, and often lacks a breast tuft. hese are large game birds. Males measure 117 cm (46 in) from beak tip to tail tip; females measure 94 cm (37 in). A long neck, featherless blue head, strong spurred legs, and a fan-shaped tail.

Life Cycle

The Wild Turkey is a non-territorial, polygynous bird. Males perform courtship displays by strutting and gobbling. Females mate with them and then nest by themselves. Nests are shallow depressions scratched into the ground. Common habitat for nesting is open woodland. Nests are often concealed under brush, grass, or shrubs. Egg-laying begins in late March; 10 to 12 eggs are laid. Eggs are white with light brown spots. Incubation lasts 28 days. Within one day of hatching, the precocial young birds, called poults, are able to walk. By day two, the hen and poults form an organized feeding line. Hen and young remain together and may join other brood flocks through the summer and fall. Male young leave the brood hen in late fall to join other males. Female young leave the following spring. At this time the female flocks break up, forming smaller groups of females attended by 1 - 4 adult males.

Natural History

Preferred habitats include mature forests, open woodlands, and farm areas. During the non-breeding season, the birds forage in flocks on the ground for acorns, seeds, some leaves, salamanders, worms, snails, and insects. Food items are swallowed whole and ground up in the bird's gizzard. Adults and poults succumb to predation by Raccoon, foxes, and Bobcats. Nests may be attacked by Raccoons, Opossums, skunks, foxes, snakes, and rodents. Wild populations sometimes become infected by diseases transmitted by domesticated fowl such as chickens and domestic turkeys.

Range

Wild Turkey Region Map The Wild Turkey occurs year-round in northwestern Georgia and in the southern third of the State. These birds range throughout the eastern United States, and in sparse, fragmented populations in the West.

Conservation Status

At the turn of the 20th century, Wild Turkey populations declined tremendously because of hunting and habitat loss. Populations have since increased due to game management and captive breeding and relocation programs. This species can be hunted in season.

Similar Species

No similar species occurs in Georgia. The Wild Turkey is much larger than other wild fowl birds.