PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS • Largest game bird in North America • Excellent eyesight, 8 times more powerful than a humans • Slight turn of the head gives a turkey a 360 degree field of vision • Hearing is extremely acute!! • Poor sense of smell
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS • Powerful legs allow turkey to run up to 12 mph • Legs are red in color (domestic turkey brown, black, silver, or white) • Legs covered with scales
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS • Turkeys can swim • Turkeys can fly at speeds up to 55 mph. • Adult males average 17 to 21 pounds • Adult females average 8 to 11 pounds • Record 31.1 pounds
Spur • Both sexes born with small button spur • Starts growing soon after hatching in males. • Adult spur has bony core • Grows gradually • Record - 2”
Beard • Tuft of stiff keratinous filaments • Beard never undergoes a molt • Male beards become visible at 6-7 months of age • Approximately 10% of hens in Tennessee have beards • Record - 16.9”
Turkey Feathers • Turkeys typically have ten primary feathers and 18-19 secondary feathers • Turkeys have 18 tail feathers • Between 5,000 and 6,000 feathers cover the body of the adult wild turkey
Turkey Feathers • Functions • Cover the body • Insulate • Waterproofing • Flight • Ornamentation for display and recognition • Gobbler chest and back feathers are black tipped (domestic turkeys white tipped) • Gobbler feathers are metallic in color with hints of red, green, copper, bronze and gold
Turkey Feathers • Hen’s plumage is much duller than gobblers • Appears more brownish in color due to brown tips on contour feathers of the breast and back
Turkey Feathers • 4 different molts resulting in different plumages • Natal (plumage at birth) • Juvenal • First basic • Alternate (first winter) • Basic (adult) • Melanistic, erythritic, albinotic • Smoke gray (incomplete albino) is the most common reported color abnormality • Complete albinos have never been documented in wild flocks.
Skeletal Structure • Functional Morphology
HABITAT REQUIREMENTS Mature forest needed for roosting and feeding. Need open understory.
HABITAT REQUIREMENTS Forest Openings needed for brood rearing and feeding
Wild turkey eggs are larger than chicken eggs, smaller than domestic turkey eggs (2.5 oz.) • More pointed than domestic turkey eggs • Nest is nothing more than shallow depression on ground • Lay 1 egg per day • Lay 10 to 12 eggs • Peak hatch is first week of June. • 35% of nest are successful
Select area with knee-high brush that provides some cover. Most nest are located near a forest opening, logging road, pasture, etc…Nest often located at base of tree or shrub (overhead protection). Nesting habitat generally not a limiting factor. • Clearcuts and fields common areas for turkeys to nest
Reproduction drives turkey populations 7 to 10 days of age poults area able to fly up into low bushes. At two weeks of age they can fly up and roost in trees.
Grow rapidly, by end of August they are as big as their mother. Insects are critical food for young poults
FALL FOOD • Ever wonder where the turkeys go in the fall? • When the acorns drop, the turkeys move into the forest to feed on them
Persimmon Autumn Olive Don’t forget soft mast
FALL FOOD Annual grains, such as millet, corn, and sunflower provides good fall and winter food.
WINTERFOOD • Common winter food: • Acorns • Waste Grain • Green Vegetation • Grass seed heads • Soft mast • Almost ANYTHING is potential food source!
Turkeys will feed on clover and other green plants frequently during the winter and early spring months
Turkey Gold Chufa Turkeys will feed on chufa from fall into the spring months
PLEISTOCENECalifornia Turkey • Low temperatures • Tundra like habitat • Very little water available
California Turkey • Disappeared 10,000 years ago • Second most common bird species found in tar seeps • Quickly became extinct • Very similar to modern turkey. Same genus different species.
Native American Wild Turkey uses • Food source (bones found in midden piles) • Domestic animal (anasazi 200 AD – 1300 AD) • Clothing (feather capes, blankets)
Native American Wild Turkey uses • Decorations (pipes, gorgets, and religious items)
Native American Wild Turkey uses • Tools (arrows, awls, needles, turkey calls, whistles) • Ornamentation (headdresses and hair)
Native American Wild Turkey uses • Religious ceremonies (Maya, Zapotec, and Zuni) • Trade items (Anasazi and Chickasaw) • Tribute (Aztecs of Mexico) • Names (Standing Turkey)
Aztec Indians • DOMESTICATION – Only N American Indian tribe to domestic the wild turkey • TAX- Montezuma required one turkey per person every 20 days, One state provided 56,000 birds annually • RAPTOR COLLECTION - 500 turkeys per day were used to feed the collection hawks and eagles • PALACE - Used another 500 turkeys per day • AFTER DEATH- Spanish continued to exact a tribute of 30,000 turkeys a year from the N American Indians
Aztec Indians • Only Nobles and ruling classes were allowed to eat turkey. Some exceptions were made at some religious feasts.
Early Explorers • Hernando Cortez - 1517 - 1521 • Hernando Desoto - 1540 • John Lawson & Santee John - 1700 • Dr. Thomas Walker - 1750 • Longhunters - 1760 • Mrs. John Donaldson - 1779 • Andre Michaux - 1796 and 1802 • William Murrey and John Buchanan - 1800
FACTORS THAT LED TO THE DECLINE OF THE WILD TURKEY POPULATION • Un-Regulated Hunting • Year round hunting • Subsistence Hunting • Market Hunting • Baiting and Trapping • Roost Shooting
FACTORS THAT LED TO THE DECLINE OF THE WILD TURKEY POPULATION • Habitat Changes • Clearing of Land • Loss of Important Food Sources • Domestic Poultry Brought in by Settlers • Diseases and Genetic Pollution of Wild Flocks
DOMESTIC POULTRY Mixing of domestic turkeys with wild turkeys may result in: Introduction of domestic poultry diseases that can negatively effect: Reproduction ( Poult Production ) Survival of Adults and Poults Genetic pollution of wild flocks Hybrids poorly adapted for survival in the wild Lower survival rates of poults produced
WILDLIFE LAWS • Lacey Act enacted in 1905 prohibited interstate sale of taken wildlife. • Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 put an excise tax on sporting goods and ammunition.
State Status • Wild turkey flocks had been steadily declining throughout Tennessee during the last half of the 18th century • War on northern aggression • Still no control of harvest • By 1900 it was quite evident that the wild turkey was in serious trouble throughout the state of Tennessee
1920 - 1930 • Wild turkey season was closed for a short period in the mid 20’s because of concern over the declining turkey flocks • The wild turkey population continued to decline even more
1920 - 1930 • The chestnut blight removed a very important food source for the wild turkey
1930 - 1940 • In the mid 30’s wild turkey hunting was closed for three years out of concern for he low wild turkey populations throughout the state • Game farms were established in 1935 at Buffalo Springs & Cheatham WMA by the Department of Conservation • Pen-reared turkeys were purchased from out-of-state sources
GAME FARM TURKEYS • From 1936 to 1939 the Tennessee Department of Conservation raised a total of about 2,000 pen-reared wild turkeys on the two game farms • These birds were released at various release sites across the state
1940 - 1950 • The hunting seasons for wild turkey were closed completely Jan. 31,1940 until April 1951
1940 - 1950 • During that time a total of 3,719 pen-reared wild turkeys were released across the state • Some releases of over 200 birds per release site were made