Ed Golson Outdoor Education

Wild Turkey

Scientific Name: Meleagris gallopavo

Description:  Michigan has many wild turkeys, which shouldn't be confused with domestic turkeys, the kind you eat for Thanksgiving.  Domestic turkeys are larger than wild turkeys.  Wild turkeys can be three to four feet high.  Males are usually bigger than females and have a black feathered chest.  Females (hens) have a brown feathered chest.  These birds flock together by sex and the young follow their mother.  When mating season occurs, the male(tom) will mate with a whole flock of  hens. The hen will lie on the nest for a whole month.  This makes her very vulnerable to predators such as fox, skunks, and raccoons.  This large bird can be characterized by strong feet and legs adapted for walking and scratching, short wings adapted for short rapid flight, a well-developed tail, and a stout beak useful for pecking.  These physical characteristics help them escape from predators.

Habitat:  These birds live in open woodlands , and meadows .  They spend most of their day looking for food.  During the winter, these birds do not migrate or hibernate , they just change their diet.  At night they will usually rest in trees, especially oak and pine. In the early 1900's the turkey population had declined due to birds being harvested without restraint for human consumption, and loss of habitat as land was cleared for agriculture and wood products.  The successful return of the wild turkey can be contributed to:  the return of mature eastern U.S. forests, sound management practices (relocating them from areas where they still had large numbers, using the rapidly propelled cannon net) and better protection of new flocks vulnerable to poaching.

Feeding:   Wild turkeys have an extremely wide variety of foods that they eat.  Some of the things they eat are: insects, spiders, snails,  small reptiles or amphibians, worms, grasses, vines, flowers, buds, seeds, fruits, clovers,  and other vegetation.

Click to hear the turkey's gobble.

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