With the amount of turkey meat and game available for hunting we would be hard pressed to imagine that this grand bird almost became extinct in the early 1930s. It is an amazing tribute to the hunters and wildlife conservation programs that have led to the restoration of the wild turkey population in its homeland and natural habitat. Interestingly wild turkey facts revealed that these birds are native to North America but can be found all the way across and right to the end of the southern tip of South America.
Wild Turkey Facts – Five North American Subspecies
You can find the wild turkey all over the American continent. The Florida wild turkey is endemic to the Florida peninsula and is known as the Osceola whereas the Rio Grande subspecies is found in Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and all the way up to Colorado, while also being found in the northwestern states.
A subspecies called the Merriam’s can be found in the neighboring prairies of the Rocky Mountains and South Dakota along with the states of Wyoming and Montana. The Eastern wild turkey is the most common subspecies in America and populates the entire eastern half of North America. A subspecies called Gould’s is found in the south of New Mexico as well as the Central part of Mexico along with the state of Arizona.
Wild Turkey Facts – Plumage Specs
There are approximately 5000 to 6000 feathers that cover the body of a fully grown turkey. Patterns that are followed by the growth of the feathers are known as the feather tracts. This plumage helps the turkey stay dry and warm and allows them to fly and show off or woo the opposite gender.
There are no feathers on the head or the upper part of the neck but there are small bumps of skin on this plain area. Turkey feathers are iridescent and give off a metallic sheen in colors of red, copper, green and gold or bronze. The male turkey, called the gobbler, has colorful plumage compared to the female turkey, known as the hen. Her plumage is lighter in color to blend into the surroundings. In fact, a hen’s plumage typically borders on dull brown.
Wild Turkey Facts – Distinguishing Features
Both the genders have very long and powerful legs. These are dotted with scales and bear a small button spur at the back. It’s interesting to note that in the male gender this spur starts pointing and turning as it grows out to approximately 2 inches in length.
This is generally not the case with the female turkeys. The gobblers also have short tufts of feathers that grow out on their chest and are known as beards. These follow an average length of approximately 9 inches In fact, it is very rare to find a turkey hen with the beard.
Wild turkeys are known to have excellent daytime vision, but do not have good sight at night. Turkeys can run and fly very fast and reach a running speed of 25 mph and a flight speed of 55 mph.
Courtship begins during winter and the mating season starts from February. Once the mating is complete the hens start looking for a nest and lay eggs, usually in a shallow and dirty depression concealed by wooded vegetation for protection. The basic clutch ranges from 10 to 12 eggs that are laid over a two-week period. The turkey hen incubates the eggs for approximately 28 days and turns them over regularly till they are hatched.