Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wild Turkeys in Spring

Wild Turkey in Spring
Meleagris gallopavo
Wild Turkey, Source

One of the largest birds in North America
Live in open fields and woods, nest on the ground
Omnivorous--Eat insects, amphibians, grasses, nuts, and berries
“beard”—modified feathers that look like hair
Females—hens, smaller than males
Powerful flier, reaches up to 55 mph over short distances
Benjamin Franklin wanted wild turkey as national symbol
Group of turkeys are called a rafter
Reintroduced in Indiana, increasing in numbers, two hunting seasons
Diurnal and non-migratory
Roost in trees at night
Very social

Wild Turkeys in Spring

Courtship movements with feathered displays with some fights happen February through May—gobble and strut with tail feathers fanned out, can hear about 1 mile away
Males do not provide any parental care
Hens make a careless but well-screened nest on the ground, using a shallow depression concealed by brush and low vegetations
Seven to 20 eggs, average is 12
Egg dumping is common (laying eggs in another nest)
Eggs are vulnerable to ground predators, young poults vulnerable prey
Able to walk and feed themselves within 24 hours of hatching
Predators of young and eggs include raccoons, opossums, striped skunks, foxes, birds, rodents, woodchucks, etc.
Egg dumping is common
Hen seldom leaves the nest after incubation
Pink/brown chicks feed on ground, begin awkward flights when about 1 month old
Family group feeds, roosts, and loafs together until large flocks congregate in late autumn
Baby turkeys called poults
Insects give high energy for fast-growing poult

Usually eat wild fruits, acorns, green leaves, seeds, and domestic grains
East sumac, wild grapes, dogwood berries, beechnuts, acorns, greenbrier, roots and tubers
Drink water
Consume grit to grind harder foods