meleagris gallopavo

Turkey

About Me

Scientific Name: Meleagris gallopavo

Description

The wild turkey of North America rarely exceeds 20 pounds in weight. Females weigh only half as much. Commercially, turkeys are selectively bred to have shorter legs, larger breasts, and to weigh more.
The male Common Turkey has iridescent, black plumage with brownish wings, and a white tipped tail that is fanned and cocked in display.

Fun Facts
  • Turkeys are not as smart as chickens. As new poults (newly hatched turkeys), they have to be taught how to eat.
  • In captivity, housing can be similar to that of domestic fowl although turkeys need more space. They do well on free range and are good foragers.
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Galliformes

The wild turkey of North America rarely exceeds 20 pounds in weight. Females weigh only half as much. Commercially, turkeys are selectively bred to have shorter legs, larger breasts, and to weigh more.

The male Common Turkey has iridescent, black plumage with brownish wings, and a white tipped tail that is fanned and cocked in display. The head and neck are bare and large wattles of red skin dangle from a vividly blue head.

In the wild, turkeys find almost all their food on the ground. They eat wild berries, a variety of nuts, and even cactus fruits. If they are near tilled soil, they will eat wheat, corn and oats. They also pick up insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates. In the zoo, the turkeys are fed bird chow, scratch and lettuce.

The Common Turkey occurs in the wild from Colorado and New York south to northern Mexico.

In captivity, housing can be similar to that of domestic fowl although turkeys need more space. They do well on free range and are good foragers. Dry, chalky soil is best, particularly where trees can provide natural shade.

In the wild, turkeys roost in trees. However domestic turkeys, having been bred much larger, sleep on the ground.

Turkeys are not as smart as chickens. As new poults (newly hatched turkeys), they have to be taught how to eat. Most people throw a few marbles or strips of aluminum foil into the water dish, and sometimes the feeder, in order to get them to start eating.

Outside of the breeding season the sexes segregate into separate flocks.

In the wild, turkeys build their nests in well hidden places on the ground. The hen prepares a hollow in the loose earth or duff of the forest floor, lining it with leaves, grasses, or other plant materials. Only the hen incubates. She covers the eggs carefully with leaves before leaving the nest to look for food.

The young hatch after 28 days of incubation. Soon after the soft downs are dry, the chicks leave the nest. They are unable to fly and so follow their mother on foot. When the chicks are about two weeks old they are able to fly onto trees. They remain with their mothers throughout the winter.

Commercially, turkeys have been selectively bred to have shorter legs and enormous breasts, to the extent that natural mating is impossible for some of the heavy breeds. All breeding is therefore by artificial insemination which increases the overall rate of fertility.

The hen turkey lays an average of 100 eggs in one breeding season, which lasts for about five months. After hatching, the young poults are kept in a brooder with artificial heat until they are hardy enough to cope, usually at four to five weeks old.

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