The Wild Turkey is much too large to be confused with any other bird. It is one of only two turkey’s in the world, the other being the Oscillated Turkey of Central and South America. Males can measure up to 50 inches in length! Turkeys are black and bronze with a naked blue or reddish head, red throat and black, hair-like beard protruding from the breastbone that may be nine inches in length. The male turkey also has a waddle, a fleshy protrusion extending from the chin area. Male turkeys (called “Toms”) may weigh up to 25 pounds, twice as much as females. The largest Wild Turkey ever recorded was 38 pounds! Turkeys are one of the most popular game birds in America. Populations are often introduced to new areas where they are continually re-stocked. Believe it or not, the famous statesman Benjamin Franklin lobbied for the Wild Turkey to be America’s national bird — instead of the Bald Eagle!
Diet: Vegetation, grasses, skunk cabbage, acorns, nuts, berries, seeds, small insects. Wild Turkeys will often surprise homeowners by visiting backyard bird feeders.
Range: The Wild Turkey ranges across most of America, but is rare in the Rocky
Habitat: Wild Turkeys are usually found in forests and forest clearings, dense brushlands, and wooded hillsides. Turkeys often live in wooded suburban and urban areas. Turkeys usually roost in small groups in trees.
Reproduction: Males turkeys display for femalles in March or April by puffing out their feathers, fanning their tales, inflating their waddles, and dragging their wings. During displays, the color of the head may change to white, red, or light blue. Domainant males are polygamous and may have harems containing as many as five hens. Female turkeys make shallow depressions in the ground and lay 10-14 eggs which are incubated for about 28 days. Young turkeys are nidifugous, which means they leave the nest soon after birth.
Below is an exceprt from a Benajmin Franklin journal in which hemakes his case for the turkey as our national bird:
Quick National Geographic Wild Turkey Video