Wild turkey Subspecies
The Forest Turkey
(Eastern Meleagris Gallapavo Silvestris)
is the most common Wild Turkey in
North America with a range across the
entire eastern portion of the North America.
In 2004 there is an estimated population of
over 48,000 wild turkeys in Ontario.
The male (Tom) can be up to four feet tall
and weigh in excess of twenty pounds,
Male Turkeys grow sharp protrusions called
spurs up to 2 inches on the hind portion of
their legs and are used to defend himself.
Toms also sports a 9-11 inch "beard" made of
feathers that resembles coarse hair from the
centre of his chest.
The Tom is darker than the Hen with feathers
that are often described as bronze iridescence
when viewed in the sunlight are magnificent.
The female (Hen) is smaller than the male with
similar height, averaging eight to twelve pounds.
Hens tend to be browner.
It is common to see numerous turkeys roosted in the
same tree at night where they are safe from predators.
During the day turkeys spend most of their time feeding.
They also are known to attend "Dusting "areas.
These are usually in sand or dry earth.
The birds will throw dirt over their bodies
to remove ticks and lice.
Turkeys are known to be very vocal, constantly
talking using a large vocabulary, which includes:
Tree Yelps: Soft yelps that are emitted
while still on the roost.
Yelps: a series of louder vocals,
which say I am here
Clucks: short loud vocals
Assembly call: Call used by hens
to bring the flock together
Cutting: short loud staccato clucks
of an excited hen
Purring: Constantly emitted from a content
hen while feeding
Kee Kee: Whistle of a Young male (Jake)
Kee Kee run: Call of a lost Jake series
of whistles with yelps at end
Gobble: The gobble of a Tom attracts hens to him,
also emitted when surprised.
Spit and Drum: Deep humming and spitting noise
made by an excited Tom, when two toms Square off
The wild turkey is not particular about what it will eat.
They have been known to eat insects, small lizards, fruits,
berries, grains, traditional agriculture crops and mast crops.
Favorites include Acorns, Soybeans, and clover.
In the winter Wild Turkeys gather together in
large flocks of 100 birds similar to deer yards.
Flocks will tend to roost in coniferous forests
and feed on cedar buds, spending the majority of
their time locating food and trying to survive.
Flocks will often be seen in agriculture corn
and soybean fields attempting to locate leftover crops.
In particularly hash winters turkeys may be attracted
to hay bales and manure piles as a source of food.
The spring of the year is mating time for the wild turkey.
The Gobbling of the Tom Turkey signals this. Gobbling
is believed to be triggered by the sun.
This generally starts in March in and lasts to June.
During this time males will establish a pecking order
with the more dominant toms gobbling the most and
doing the majority of the breeding.
Hens will locate nest areas and will then breed with the toms.
Although Hens need only breed once to successfully
fertilize a clutch of eggs they will continue to
breed daily often to several toms until they have
laid all of their eggs.
An average clutch is ten to twelve eggs.
Eggs are incubated for twenty-eight days.
Once the eggs hatch the poults grow rapidly and
within three weeks are able to fly to the roost.
Toms will Gobble from the roost and again from the ground.
This is to attract the hens to them.
They will set up in a " Strut Zone ",
an area where the toms are comfortable.
The Toms will strut for their potential suitors.
Strutting Toms are a majestic sight with tails fanned
in large semi circles the tom will puff up his feathers
and draw his head to his chest.
The colours of his head will change from
brilliant red to blue and white.
His snood will become elongated and
the iridescence of their feathers in full view.
Toms will also strut to intimidate other toms.
At the end of the mating season the Toms and
Jakes will gather together in bachelor groups
and will spend the summer and fall feeding
and preparing for winter.
Hens will spend the summer raising their
brood of poults.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
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