Meleagris – Wild & Ocellated turkey

Turkeys are one of the most widely distributed gamebirds indigenous to the US, with long necks and large fan-shaped tail

Turkeys are large, impressive birds native to North America known for their significance in the wild and as domesticated animals. Wild turkeys are highly adaptable and inhabit various environments across North America, from the deep woods of New England and Canada to the various ecosystems of Mexico.

These birds have robust, long legs well-suited for their ground-dwelling lifestyle. They can often be found in areas with a mix of open and wooded habitats, which provide them with opportunities for foraging in clearings and roosting in trees. Their preference for such habitats includes pastures, fields, orchards, and forest edges.

One of the most recognizable features of turkeys is the red fleshy lobe known as the snood, which hangs from the top of their beak, and the wattle, which is the lobe hanging from their chin or throat. The color and size of these wattles and the bird’s head can change due to stress or excitement, particularly in males, known as gobblers or toms. The males display vibrant head colors of red, blue, or white, especially prominent during the breeding season.

Gobblers are well known for their characteristic gobbling sound, which is part of their mating ritual and can be heard up to a mile away. This vocalization attracts females and asserts the male’s dominance over his territory. During the breeding season, turkeys can become quite vocal, with gobblers often puffing up their feathers, fanning their large, rounded tails, and strutting to showcase their vigor to potential mates.

The history of turkeys in human culture is long and complex. They have been a source of sustenance, a symbol of abundance, and are closely associated with American holidays, particularly Thanksgiving. The domesticated turkey is a descendant of the wild turkey and has been bred for meat production, resulting in larger birds being less capable of flight than their wild counterparts.