Wild Turkey

Meleagris gallopavo

Class: Aves

Order: Galliformes

Family: Meleagrididae

Range Map

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Wild Turkey

 

Wild Turkey

The restoration of the wild turkey over the past 25 years is one of Minnesota's greatest conservation success stories. Once rare, today wild turkeys are becoming a common sight throughout southern and western and even central Minnesota. The birds, which usually travel in flocks, are often seen in wooded areas next to farm fields and pastures.

Identification

General description: The wild turkey is a big black or gray bird with a round body and tiny head. Males, called gobblers, have a red head, neck, and wattle (the fleshy growth that hangs beneath the chin). Gobblers have a tail that, when spread, looks like a large fan.

Length: About 3 feet, with a 4-foot wingspan.

Weight: 10 to 25 pounds.

Color: Males are mostly dark brown and black. Hens are brownish gray.

Sounds: An assortment of yelps, gobbles, purrs, putts, and other calls.

Reproduction

Turkeys mate from April to May. Hens lay 10 to 12 eggs, which hatch in about 28 days. The young, called polts, are able to fly in three or four weeks, but they stay with their mother up to four months.

Food

Turkeys eat almost anything they can catch, including ferns, grasses, grain, buds, berries, insects, acorns, and even frogs and snakes.

Predators

Great-horned owls, eagles, coyotes and foxes.

Habitat and range

Open wooded areas, brushy grasslands, and river bottoms. Wild turkeys are found throughout Minnesota as far north as Detroit Lakes and Brainerd. Heaviest concentrations are in southeastern Minnesota.

Population and management

Minnesota's wild turkey population is expanding north and west. It has grown from just a few birds in the early 1970s to more than 30,000 today. The state has spring and fall hunting seasons, which have become very popular. Hunting is regulated to allow the wild turkey population to continue growing.

Fun facts

Wild turkeys form flocks of six to 40 birds that roost in trees each evening. In 1782, the turkey lost by a single vote to the bald eagle to become the national bird.