Wild Turkey

Scientific Name: 
Meleagris gallopavo

The Wild Turkey is native to North America and is the heaviest member of the Galliformes family, which includes other game birds like quail, grouse and pheasant.

Adult male turkeys average 12 to 24 pounds, but can weigh as much as 30 pounds or more. Their wingspan of a male can range from 48 to 56 inches. Female turkeys are smaller than males. Despite their large size, turkeys are good fliers and can be spotted perched in trees.

Male turkeys are called toms and female turkeys are referred to as hens. Toms are polygamous and will mate with as many hens as possible. Turkeys will court in groups with several toms competing to mate with the group's females. The group's dominant male will spread his tail feathers and strut for the hens.

A tom's head changes color based on its mood. If the turkey becomes excited, its head turns blue. If the turkey is ready to fight, its head turns red. Legend has it that Benjamin Franklin preferred the wild turkey to the bald eagle as our national bird, in part due the turkey's red, white and blue coloring. Franklin's opposition to the bald eagle is well documented, however there is some dispute as to whether his documented preference for the wild turkey may have in fact been witticism.

Wild turkeys prefer open woods and brush areas where they can forage for food.
Turkeys are omnivores and forage on the ground for seeds, berries and insects.
The range of the wild turkey includes most of the Midwest and Eastern United States.
Range Map: