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Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada

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.

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