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Wild Turkey Facts & Trivia, Information, and Photos

Bold, yet cautious, the wild turkey has become one of the great symbols of American mythology.

The Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) occupies more than half of the United States and parts of Mexico. The impressive plumage that it carries and the unique wattle and beard of the male, brings attention to this remarkable species. American Expedition is proud to present interesting information, fascinating facts & trivia, habitat info, and photos of the Wild Turkey.

Wild Turkey Facts, Trivia, Information, Habitat, and Photos

Wild Turkey Information

Wild turkeys are large, ground dwelling birds with powerful legs, fan shaped tails, and a red fleshy lobe called a “wattle,” that hangs from their chin. Male turkeys, also called “toms” or “gobblers,” sport a “beard” consisting of a tuft of black filamentous feathers protruding from their breast. Females, also known as “hens,” are smaller than the males, and have less impressive plumage. Young male turkeys are called “jakes” and have shorter tail feathers and a shorter beard than the adult males. Turkeys have excellent eyesight, and a keen sense of hearing despite having no external ears. They are relatively fast and can run at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. Turkeys are also short-distance fliers when they need to scramble, and can reach speeds of up to 55 miles per hour. A full-grown male turkey will measure up to 4 feet long and may weigh up to 30 pounds.

Painting of a wild turkey flying.

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The mating season for turkeys occurs in the months of March and April. Males will attract females by "strutting." When they strut, they will fan out their tail feathers while dragging their wings on the ground, throw their head back, and take very quick, rapid steps. Successful males will mate with multiple hens. After mating, hens nest in a small depression they make in the ground, usually surrounded by a dense brush. Females lay 4 to 17 eggs, and will incubate them for a month. Males take no part in incubating the eggs or rearing their young. The newly hatched turkeys, or “poults,” leave the nest within 12 to 24 hours in order to feed. They stay with their mother for a few months after they are born, until they venture out on their own. The lifespan of a wild turkey is 3 to 4 years.

Wild Turkey Facts & Trivia

  • Male turkeys are called "toms" or “gobblers;” female turkeys are called "hens."
  • A turkey’s diet consists of seeds, nuts, fruit, insects, and small lizards.
  • Turkeys have a wingspan of up to six feet, which makes them the largest bird in their natural habitat of the open forest by far.
  • Turkey calls can be quite loud. On a clear, quiet day, a gobble made by a male turkey can be heard from a mile away.
  • Turkeys have an extremely wide field of vision because their eyes are located on opposite sides of their head. The positioning of their eyes allows the turkey to see objects on both sides of itself, but limits its depth perception. Turkeys have excellent vision during the day, but limited vision at night.
  • Turkeys have no external ear structures, but they have small holes in their head located behind their eyes where sound can enter. Turkeys can pinpoint sounds up to a mile away.
  • Turkeys do not have a strong sense of smell, and the region of their brain that controls smell is very small compared to other animals.
  • Turkeys are usually found in forests, but they may also be found in grasslands and swamps.
  • Wild turkeys were nearly wiped out by hunting in the 1930s, when there were only about 30,000 in the wild. Due to conservation efforts, turkey numbers have rebounded, and are estimated to be more than 7 million today.
  • A turkey has between 5,000 and 6,000 feathers covering its body.
  • Most of the feathers of a turkey are iridescent with varying colors such as red, bronze, gold, and green.
  • Newly hatched turkeys leave the nest within 12 to 24 hours in order to feed. Mothers will feed the hatchlings for a short period before they must fend for themselves.
Artwork of a turkey strutting.

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  • Turkey feathers were used by Native Americans in order to stabilize their arrows.
  • Wild Turkeys are one of the most popular game birds in North America.
  • Turkeys sleep in trees to stay safe from predators at night.

Wild Turkey Habitat

Wild Turkeys are found throughout most of the middle and eastern portions of the United States and in limited areas in the west and in Mexico. They usually occupy woodland areas, but may also be found in grassland and swamp regions. Turkeys walk the forest floors during the day foraging for food, while at night they roost in trees to stay safe from predators.

What Do Turkeys Eat? 

Being an omnivore, a turkey’s diet consists of seeds, berries, nuts, insects, acorns, snails, salamanders, and small snakes. Poults tend to eat a lot of insects.

Wild Turkeys & People

At Thanksgiving, Americans sit around the table and enjoy a large meal, with turkey as the main course. Although most people buy their turkey from the store (domesticated), some families enjoy a wild turkey they harvested the past spring.

Turkey hunting is a popular sport of many Americans. After obtaining a hunting license and turkey tag, hunters use either a bow or a shotgun (depending on the season) to harvest the bird. Because of a turkey’s keen eyesight, it is important to wear camouflage patterned clothing while in the woods. Some people like to sit in a manufactured camouflage blind to stay concealed while hunting. Others prefer to make their own cover with natural materials such as fallen tree limbs and brush. Hunters often display decoys of wild turkeys in order to attract the birds to the area. Another way to lure turkeys is to use turkey calls. There are over 10 different sounds that can be produced to draw turkeys in.

Benjamin Franklin wrote that the wild turkey would have made a better choice for the national bird of the United States than the bald eagle, because although the turkey was a little vain and silly, it was a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack British troops that invaded his farm yard with a red coat on.

A wild turkey's head close up.

Wild Turkeys are one of the most popular game birds in North America.

A wild turkey against a backdrop of green grass.

Turkeys have 5,000 to 6,000 feathers covering their bodies.

A wild turkey with tail feathers fanned out.

Male turkeys, or "toms," will fan their tales out while strutting to try to impress females, or "hens."

A wild turkey walking in the snow.

Winter is a good time to spot a turkey, as they stand out against the snow.

A group of wild turkeys in a field.

Turkey numbers were as low as 30,000 in the 1930's, but have significantly rebounded since. It is estimated there are 7 million in the wild today.

A wild turkey in the woods.

Turkeys are usually found in forest environments, but may also be found in grasslands and occasionally in swamps and wetlands.

A wild turkey strutting in the snow.

Being an omnivore, a turkey’s diet consists of seeds, berries, nuts, insects, acorns, snails, salamanders, and small snakes. Poults tend to eat a lot of insects.

A wild turkey in the woods.

Wild Turkeys are found throughout most of the middle and eastern portions of the United States and in limited areas in the west and in Mexico.

A great photo of a strutting wild turkey.

Most of the feathers of a turkey are iridescent with varying colors such as red, bronze, gold, and green.

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