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WILD TURKEY

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  1. WILD TURKEY Meleagris gallopavo

  2. Turkey Facts • 5,000-6,000 feathers cover the body in patterns called feather tracts • Feathers keep turkey dry & warm • Allow them to fly • Allow them to show off for opposite sex • Head & upper part of neck is featherless

  3. Feathers exhibit a metallic glittering called iridescence • Feather colors vary from red to green to copper to bronze to gold • Male is more colorful • Female is drab brownish to lighter color to help camouflage with surroundings

  4. Male turkey is called the gobbler • Female turkey is called the hen • Two major characteristics that distinguish males from females, Spurs & Beards • Males begin growing spurs soon after birth • Spurs can reach up to 2 inches long

  5. Beards are modified feathers growing out of chest • Beards grow to an average of 9 inches long but can grow much longer • 10-20% of hens will have beards • Have excellent vision during the day • Poor night vision • Very mobile

  6. Turkeys can run up to 25 mph • Turkeys can fly up to 55 mph • Mating season can occur between February & April • Hens nest in shallow dirt depressions on the ground • Hens lay a clutch of 10-12 eggs during a 2-week period, usually laying one egg per day

  7. Hens will incubate eggs for about 28 days, occasionally turning & rearranging the eggs until they are ready to hatch • Newly hatched flock must be ready to leave the nest within 12-24 hours to feed • Young turkeys are called poults

  8. Poults eat insects, berries & seeds • Adults will eat anything from acorns & berries to insects & small reptiles • Usually feed in early morning & afternoon • Like open areas for feeding, mating & habitat • Forested areas are used as cover from predators & night roosting sites

  9. A varied habitat of both open & covered areas is essential for wild turkey survival • Pittman-Robertson Act helped restore wild turkeys & habitat • The rocket net allowed wildlife agencies to trap & relocate wild turkeys • From 30,000 in the early 1900’s to over 7 million today

  10. Turkeys cannot overpopulate an area and strip it of available food since their diet varies • Gobblers will mate with multiple hens in a season or day • An abundance of hens can allow a population to recover from poor hatch years in as few as two years

  11. Predator-Prey Relationship • Survival of the fittest • Fit individuals maintain a healthy breeding population • Turkey nests are the main target of predators • Snakes, skunks, opossums, raccoons, rodents, dogs, coyotes & crows prey on nests of turkeys

  12. About ½ of turkey nests make it to hatching • Poults fall prey to hawks, owls, foxes & bobcats • Few adults are taken by predators except in situations where the adults are in poor health

  13. Habitat • Habitat quality also determines how a species will survive predators • Early successional plant stages provide shelter for poults & nests • Habitat quality & distribution is more important than the number of predators

  14. Turkey Information • Largest of the North American game birds • Adult males weigh between 16 & 24 pounds • Adult females weigh between 8 & 10 pounds • Largest wild turkey on record weighed 37 pounds

  15. Feathers • Males: Iridescent red, green, copper, bronze & gold feathers • Toms use bright colors for attracting females during breeding season • Females: Drab, usually brown or gray feathers. Allow hens to camouflage & hide while nesting

  16. Color Phases • 4 basic color phases • Smokey gray color phase • Melanistic color phase (all black) • Erythritic color phase (reddish coloration) • Albino color phase (very rare)

  17. Head • Males: brightly colored, nearly featherless; during breeding season the head color will change between red, white & blue, often in a few seconds • Females: gray-blue with some small feathers for camouflage

  18. Carnucles: fleshy growths on the heads of males & females • Snoods: fleshy protrubances which hang over their bills & can be extended or contracted at will • Male snoods is much larger than females • Unsure of what the snoods are for but believed to be developed as a way to attract mates

  19. Beards • Cluster of long, hair-like feathers grown from the center of the chest, known as a beard • On males, the average beard is 9” long • 10-20 percent of hens will grow beards • Longest beard on record is more than 18” long

  20. Legs • Reddish orange in color • Have 4 toes on each foot • Males will grow large spurs on the back of their lower legs • Bony spikes used for defense & establish dominance • Can grow up to 2” long • Longest spurs on record are 2 ¼” long

  21. Tail • Usually 12-15 inches long & banded at the tips • Color bands will vary by subspecies • Males will fan their tails to attract a mate • Adult males can be distinguished from juvenile males by the length of tail feathers

  22. History • Early 1900’s most wild turkey populations had been wiped out due to habitat destruction & commercial harvest. • Turnaround began with Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act • Today more than 7 million wild turkeys roam North America with huntable populations in all states except Alaska

  23. Native to North America • 5 subspecies: • Eastern • Osceola (Florida) • Rio Grande • Merriam’s • Gould’s

  24. EASTERN

  25. Eastern Subspecies(Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) • Most common of the wild turkeys • Ranges the entire eastern half of the United States & farthest north • Found in hardwood & mixed forests • Has been transplanted into California, Oregon & Washington • Silvestris means “forest” turkey

  26. Eastern

  27. Tail feathers tipped with dark buff or chocolate brown • Breast feathers tipped in black • Toms may measure 4’ tall at maturity & weigh more than 20 pounds • Hens may be nearly as tall but usually weigh between 8 & 12 pounds

  28. Eastern

  29. OSCEOLA

  30. Osceola

  31. Osceola

  32. Osceola Subspecies(Melagris gallopavo osceola) • Also known as the Florida wild turkey • Found only in Florida • Named for Seminole Chief Osceola • Tail feathers tipped in brown • Body feathers appear to have a green & red tint with less bronze than the Eastern • Reproductive cycle begins slightly earlier than the Eastern

  33. Osceola

  34. Osceola

  35. Osceola

  36. RIO GRANDE

  37. Rio Grande Subspecies(Melagris gallopavo intermedia) • Native to the Central Plain States • Similar in appearance to other subspecies • Tail feathers are yellowish-buff or tan rather than medium or dark brown • May be found up to 6,000 feet in elevation • Favors more open habitat than wooded

  38. Considered a nomadic bird • May form large flocks of several hundred birds during winter • Known to travel 10 or more miles from winter roost sites to nesting areas • Similar in size to the Osceola • Disproportionately long legs

  39. MERRIAM’S

  40. Merriam’s Subspecies(Melagris gallopavo merriami) • Found primarily in the Ponderosa Pine, western regions of the U.S. • Historic range was Arizona, New Mexico & Colorado • Has been successfully stocked into Nebraska, Washington, California & Oregon • Habitat dependent

  41. Merriam's

  42. Males easily distinguished from other subspecies by nearly white feathers on lower back & tail feather margins • Closely resemble the Gould’s but tail margin is not as pure white nor is the margin of the tail tip quite as wide • Comparable to the Eastern subspecies in size

  43. Merriam's

  44. Has a blacker appearance with blue, purple & bronze reflections • Appear to have a white rump

  45. GOULD’S

  46. Gould’s Subspecies(Melagris gallopavo mexicana) • 5th but least known subspecies • Found in portions of Arizona & New Mexico as well as northern Mexico • A mountain bird • Very small numbers along US/Mexico borders but abundant in northwestern Mexico

  47. Gould's

  48. Largest of the 5 subspecies • Resembles the Merriam’s • Have longer legs, larger feet & larger center tail feathers • Have distinctive white tips on tail feathers • Body plumage is said to be somewhat blue-green • Females are more purplish