Turkey Biology

Identification | Biology | Damage ID | Management | Handling


Males gobble, strut, and flair their feathers to attract mates. They will inseminate multiple females. Other than mating, males provide no care for females or young. Females nest in April to May, laying an average of 4 to 17 eggs. Females may nest up to 2 additional times due to their ability to store sperm. Renesting often occurs if clutches or broods are lost, but brood loss is not a requirement. After hatching, poults are flightless and will remain in ground nests for up to 2 weeks.  

Turkey nest with eggs. Photo by Jan Hygnstrom.

Nesting/Denning Cover 

Hens scratch a 1-inch depression into the soil to place the eggs. They prefer nesting locations with abundant ground cover between 1½ to 6 feet tall and removed from disturbances, such as roads.  


Wild turkeys are very social animals, often congregating in flocks of 10 or more birds. They have excellent vision but their night vision is poor, which helps explain their diurnal behavior. Strong legs enable them to run up to speeds of 12 miles per hour. Turkeys can fly but typically only to avoid danger or move to new habitat. Turkeys have been recorded reaching flight speeds of 55 miles per hour. They can travel a mile with little difficulty.   


Turkeys prefer areas where fields are broken by large stands of woods containing mature pine-hardwoods and other mast-producing trees. Trees located near streams are preferred before nesting.  

Flock of turkeys moving toward tree cover. Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel. 

Food Habits

Wild turkeys eat a variety of plant- and animal-based foods, including acorns, seeds of pine trees, grass seeds, corn, silage, apples, peanuts, barley, rye, soybeans, grapes, wheat, tomatoes, apples, strawberries, ginseng, and insects.