Eastern Wild Turkey
Largest game bird in North America. Gobblers average 17 pounds but weigh up to 25 pounds. Hens average between 8 and 11 pounds. Gobblers have bronzy, iridescent body plumage with black-tipped breast feathers; hens have light brown breast feather tips. Gobblers typically have a tuft of modified feathers called a beard protruding from the breast, along with an upwardly curving spur on the lower legs. Hens typically lack the beard and spurs. The bumps of skin on a turkey’s neck and head are called caruncles, and the protrusion from the base of the beak is called a snood. Both the caruncles and snood change color when gobblers are displaying to attract the attention of hens.
Range and Habitat
Most abundant and most widely distributed turkey species. The natural range includes almost all of the eastern United States. Preferred habitats are diverse and include fields, meadows, woodlands, etc.; especially abundant in swampy forests, brush lands, and open woods.
Eat a wide variety of food throughout the year—green grasses and leaves during the spring, ripeneded seeds of grasses and other plants during the summer and early fall, and acorns and berries from fall through early spring. They eat insects year-round as well as domestic crops such as corn, soybeans, and chufas. Poults eat insects and other animal matter to get the protein they need for rapid development.
Peak nesting is from late March through April. Hens nest on the ground. They lay an average of 10 eggs and incubate them for 26 to 28 days. Excessive rain, cool temperatures, drought, predation, and a host of other factors can influence hatching success.
Once poults hatch they follow the hen from the nest to feeding sites. At about 10 to 14 days old, poults begin to fly short distances.