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Wild Turkey

Scientific name: Meleagris gallopavo

This native ground bird is the second heaviest in North America.

Its story here in New York is an interesting one.  Due to excessive hunting and habitat loss (which was a result of clear cutting for farming and timber harvesting),  the last of the wild turkeys disappeared by the mid-19th century. A hundred years later, a small group came from Pennsylvania, which started the re-establishment of the turkey in New York. The New York D.E.C. aided in the re-population by trapping the turkey where larger populations occurred and then releasing them in areas that could support them.  Since then, their population has rebounded, and they are a common sight.


Males can weight up to 25 pounds; females are in the 9-13 lb range.


Up to 2 1/2 feet high.

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Omnivorous. Seeds, nuts, insects. Acorns are a favorite food.


Very adaptable, but they do need open areas.

Life Cycle

The wild turkey congregates in large flocks during the winter months. The mating season starts in the spring, with the male (called the Tom) strutting, puffing out his chest and displaying his beautiful feathers to attract the female. The males are polygamous and will mate with as many hens as possible!

The female will lay up to 12 eggs, in shallow nests, which are on the ground. Once they hatch, about a month later, they are able to leave the nest within a day.

Ecosystem Connections

They are hunted by many other species, such as coyote, raccoon, skunk, fox , hawk, and snake.

Fun Facts

They can fly up to 40-50 mph and cover a distance of 1/4 mile. They can swim as well!

How do they Communicate?

The wild turkey has a social structure that includes many different vocalizations.  Males gobble during mating season to attract females.  Other sounds you might hear are a cluck, which is made to catch attention, a purr while walking to signify general contentment and a whistle when one is lost and trying to find the rest of the flock. Click here to learn more and listen!

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