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The Ocellated Turkey is the sister species to North America’s Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo).

Appearance

The breast feathers of male and female Ocellated Turkeys do not differ and cannot be used to determine sex. The body feathers of both male and female Ocellated Turkeys are an iridescent bronze-green, with males more brightly colored than females. Males weigh just over ten pounds and average three feet in length. At around six pounds, females are slightly smaller, though they gain weight during the mating season. Both sexes have bluish-gray tails with a well-defined, eye-shaped, blue-bronze colored spot near the end followed by bright gold tip. Males and females have a blue-colored head and neck with distinctive orange to red, warty growths that are more pronounced on males. The head of the male also has a fleshy blue crown that is adorned with yellow-orange growths similar to those on the neck. Ocellated Turkeys also have a distinct eye-ring of bright red colored skin, especially visible on adult males during the breeding season.

Occurrence

They are found in the Yucatán Peninsula, including parts of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. The species utilizes tropical deciduous forests, savanna, open marshland and agricultural-forest matrix environments.

Life History

Diet

Their diet consists mainly of seeds, berries, insects and leaves.

Breeding

Reproduction takes place during spring months with males performing elaborate display rituals to attract females.

Behavior

They are rarely seen away from protected areas, where can be common and tame. This turkey is found often in groups; feeds on the ground, but roosts in trees.

Conservation

Active conservation efforts have recently been conducted within the species’ range in Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. Current conservation risks include subsistence hunting pressure, often a by-product of habitat alteration and anthropogenic encroachment. Large scale timbering operations followed by slash and burn agriculture in Central America also threatens the habitat of the Ocellated Turkey. The alarming rate of this destruction is a major threat to the future of this beautiful bird. Quantifiable research will be necessary to bolster conservation efforts and hone population estimates.

Bibliography

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