Turkeys

´╗┐Identification | Biology | Damage ID | Management | Resources

Figure 1. Male turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) making a mating display to the female (left). Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel. 

Identification

The wild turkey (Melagris gallopavo, Figure 1) is classified in the order known as Galliforms because they are heavy-bodied, fowl-like birds with short, thick bills, short, rounded wings and short legs. 

Legal Status

Turkeys are protected game birds throughout the U.S., with hunting seasons established for taking them. Most states, however, have provisions for landowners to control furbearers which are damaging their property at any time of the year. Check with your state wildlife agency before using any lethal controls.   

Physical Description

Wild turkeys are large birds about 36-48 inches in length. Males (toms) weigh 17 to 21 pounds and females weigh 8 to 11 pounds. Heads of turkeys have few feathers with males having the fewest. Males are more brightly colored with females having more brownish and tan coloration. Toms also have black- and white-barred flight feathers and spurs on their legs.  

Species Range

Wild turkeys are found throughout most of the U.S. with the exception of the desert southwest and tundra areas (Figure 2).  

Figure 2. Distribution of the wild turkey. Image by Stephen M. Vantassel. 

Voices and Sounds

Turkeys have a variety of calls including the predator alarm, the alarm putt, and the distress scream. Males will gobble to attract females during mating season.

Tracks and Signs

Turkey tracks, with three toes facing forward and one facing the rear, look similar to many walking birds. Identify tracks as turkey by their size.