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The Wild Turkey is a well-known North American symbol for Thanksgiving. These big, spectacular birds are an increasingly common sight the rest of the year, too, as flocks stride around woods and clearings like miniature dinosaurs.

Appearance

Wild turkeys have dark brown plumage and a long pink neck attached to a small pink head. They have small yellow beaks with red flaps. Males have a "beard" sticking out of their stomach, which is a darker shade of brown than their plumage and consists of rough, hair-like feathers. Males typically have tan tail feathers with dark brown stripes. Wild turkeys also have yellow legs with three toes on each. The nails are short and claw-like.

Habitat

Wild Turkey Range Map

Wild Turkey range map

Wild Turkeys live year-round in open forests with interspersed clearings in 49 states (excluding Alaska), parts of Mexico, and parts of southern Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, Canada. Turkeys in northeastern North America use mature oak-hickory forests and humid forests of red oak, beech, cherry, and white ash. In the Southeast, turkeys live in forests containing pine, magnolia, beech, live oak, pecan, American elm, cedar elm, cottonwood, hickory, bald cypress, tupelo, sweetgum, or water ash, with understories of sourwood, huckleberry, blueberry, mountain laurel, greenbrier, rose, wisteria, buttonbush, or Carolina willow. Southwestern birds are often found in open grassy savannas with small oak species. In Alberta, turkeys live between pinyon-juniper forest and ponderosa pine forest.

Life History

Diet

Wild turkeys eat mostly corn they find from corn fields. They compete with Coyotes for this resource.

Mating Rituals

During mating season, female wild turkeys mate with whichever male has the most tail feathers.

Trivia

  • Turkeys appear in the CGI film Free Birds.
  • Unlike their Domestic counterparts, wild turkeys have the ability to fly.
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