Genus: Meleagris gallopavo
The wild turkey has longer legs and neck, a more slender body, a smaller head, and darker plumage than does the domestic turkey. Tips of wild turkey tail feathers are light brown, the domestic tips are white.
Male wild turkeys (gobblers) differ from hens by having longer legs & neck, a larger foot and larger bodies, and have a bronzy, iridescent body plumage with black-tipped breast feathers. The gobbler typically has a tuft of modified feathers called a "beard" protruding from its breast, with an upward curving spur on the lower legs. (Occasionally the beard or spurs may not develop on a gobbler). Females (hens) have light-brown breast feather tips and a few may have beards. During the spring mating season, the head of the sexually aroused adult gobbler takes on a combination of red, white, and blue colors in varying degrees.
Wild turkey habitats are large tracts of mature forests (bottomland and upland hardwoods, pine-hardwood, pine) mixed with open areas (pastures, hayfields) that provide diversity for feeding and reproduction
The sex of a wild turkey or a flock can be determined by sign. Gobblers have a large track with a middle toe at least 4 inches in length and a hen track has a middle toe less than 3 inches long. Hen droppings are spiral shaped, but gobblers typically leave an elongated J-shaped dropping.
Jakes, or yearling gobblers, normally weigh 9 to 13 pounds and have short, rounded spurs and a beard less than 5 inches long. Older toms generally weigh between 16 and 21 pounds and have spurs longer than half an inch and a beard more than 7 inches long. First-year hens (jenny) typically weigh 5 to 7 pounds; adult hens average 9 pounds.
About 90 percent of the mature turkey's diet comes from plants, including green foliage of grasses, vines, and forbs; acorns; buds; seeds; and fruits of various types.
Wild turkeys eat a variety of cultivated crops, including soybeans, corn, wheat, oats, ryegrass, chufa, and clovers.
The increase of daylight in spring triggers hormonal changes. Gobbling in late February to early March is the approach of the mating period. Gobbling begins at daybreak, while the gobbler is on the roostand then the gobbler flies down and begins his strutting and gobbling for the hen(s). Strutting begins with the raising of body feathers, fanning of the tail, and dropping the wings alongside to the ground. Blood rushes to the gobbler's head, and his snood elongates and his caruncles turn a bright red. If the hen is receptive, she will crouch before the displaying gobbler and they will mate. Hens usually mate several times. Only the males "gobble"; the females cluck
Turkeys usually nest in areas (old fields, cut-overs, pine forests) that provides some bushy/vine concealment. One egg is laid daily until a clutch averaging 9 to 11 eggs is completed. Incubation takes 28 days, and all poults hatch within a 24-hour period. Peak hatching period is from about May 20 to June 10.
The fact that wild turkeys nest on the ground and require a total of 6 weeks to lay and incubate eggs makes hens and their nests vulnerable to predation and human disturbance (destroying nests by burning, mowing, and discing). Common predators of turkey eggs include Foxes, coyotes, feral dogs, raccoons, skunks, opossums, crows, and snakes. Mortality rates of poults generally range from 70 to 80 percent or higher. Turkeys have a high reproductive potential, and one good hatch can significantly increase populations and offset previous poor hatches.
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