Physical TraitsLarge, dark ground-dwelling bird with long; powerful legs; large, fan-shaped tail; bare head and neck; short, slightly downcurved bill. Tip of tail chestnut-brown (in East) or white (in Southwest). Males: Breast feathers tipped with black; head and neck blue-gray with pink wattles, during spring display, forehead white, face bright blue, neck scarlet; spurs on legs, beard long and obvious, larger on older birds. Females: Breast feathers tipped with brown, gray, or white; head with small feathers; beard small, if present.
HabitatFound in hardwood forests with scattered openings, swamps, mesquite grassland, ponderosa pine, and chaparral.
DietAcorns, nuts, seeds, fruits, insects, buds, fern fronds, salamanders.
BehaviorThe male gobbles to attract females. When she appears, he struts around her. He has his tail fanned and held up vertically, lowers his wings so that the wingtips drag on the ground, raises the feathers on his back, throws his head back onto his back with the bill forward, and inflates his crop. He makes occasional deep "chump" sounds, followed by a low "humm," and accompanied by a rapid vibration of his tail feathers. During the strut his facial skin engorges and the colors intensify, especially the white forehead. Forages on ground in flocks. Scratches ground to uncover nuts.
Nest Building TechniquesA depression in dead leaves or vegetation on ground.
Migration and RangeResident. Non-migratory
Cool FactsThe Wild Turkey was a very important food animal to Native Americans, but it was eliminated from much of its range by the early 1900s.
Attempts to use game farm turkeys for reintroduction programs failed. In the 1940s wild birds were caught and transported to new areas, where they quickly became established and flourished. Such transplantations have been responsible for the spread of the Wild Turkey to 49 states.
The male Wild Turkey provides no parental care. When the eggs hatch, the chicks follow the female. She feeds them for a few days, but they quickly learn to feed themselves. Several hens and their broods may join up into bands of more than 30 birds. Winter groups have been seen to exceed 200.