Wild Turkey Fact File


The wild turkey is a large bird which has a body covered with bronze, iridescent feathers or black feathers which have bronze areas on the wings and back. The wings have white edges on the upper side.

Their head is naked of feathers and colored grey or purplish grey with a range of red wattles across it. Males have a fleshy, red growth on their head known as the caruncle. The males also has a collection of hair-like feathers on the upper breast which resemble a beard.

At the end of the body is a broad tail which is efficient to help them steer when in flight. This tail is colored yellow with brown stripes.

An average wild turkey will measure 1.2m (4ft) long and weigh 10kg (22lbs). A large individual was recorded weighing 17.2kg (38lbs). Their wingspan is 130-155cm (51.2-61in) across. They may stand up to 1.2m (4ft) tall. Males may be twice as large as females.


The wild turkey is an omnivore. Adults will feed on seeds, herbs, shoots, nuts, fruit, roots, buds, flowers and insects. Sometimes amphibians and small lizards may also be eaten.

Juveniles are more reliant on insects and they may eat as many as 4,000 per day.

wild turkey

Scientific Name

Meleagris gallopavo

Conservation Status

Least Concern


10kg (22lbs)


1.2m (4ft)


1.2m (4ft)


130-155cm (51.2-61in)


Wild 8-9 years




North America is the native home of the wild turkey. Here they live in the United States and Mexico.

Introduced populations of the wild turkey exist in Australia, Germany, New Zealand and on the island of Hawaii.


They make their home in forests, savannas, shrublands and grasslands. Wild turkeys will take advantage of man-made habitats such as pastures and orchards.

wild turkey

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Breeding takes place in early spring. Males will mate with multiple females throughout the breeding season. To attract a mate he will create the gobbling sound and strut around with his tails fanned out, the head sitting back and the crop inflated.

Females lay between 4 and 17 eggs which they incubates on their own. These eggs are brown with spots. The male has no involvement with the chicks after mating.

They may lay some of their eggs in to the nest of another female.

Once the eggs hatch the female will provide them food for a few days until they learn how to feed themselves. While they feed themselves the mother will still brood her chicks each night.


A wild turkey may run at up to 40km/h (25mph). Their main method of defense against predators is to run away from them.

In flight they are able to reach speeds of up to 88.5km/h (55mph).

Outside the breeding season they will live in a group of up to 20 individuals. During breeding season males form a territory which they defend against others.

Wild turkeys are active by day. At night they find a tree in which to roost.

wild turkey

Predators and Threats

Adult turkeys face predators including coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, cougars and birds of prey such as eagles and owls.

Chicks and eggs face additional predators such as the striped skunk, opossums, foxes, woodchucks, rodents and snakes.

They will defend themselves by pecking with the bill, scratching using its claws and hitting with its wings.

In the early 20th century the wild turkey was almost wiped out due to habitat destruction and hunting. Initially they were targeted for their feathers with the focus on their meat emerging in the 1900s.

Quick facts

The turkey was put forward by Benjamin Franklin to be the United States national bird. It lost out to the bald eagle.

Turkeys have been domesticated and are often farmed. Domestic turkeys have a white tip to their tail unlike most wild turkeys. This is due to them having been domesticated from a population in Mexico which was taken to Europe during the 16th century.

A group of turkeys is known as a rafter.

Photo Gallery

wild turkey
wild turkey

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Photo Credits

Middle Two

Under License

All other Images

Public Domain


Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Morcombe, M., 2003. Field Guide To Australian Birds. Archerfield, Qld.: Steve Parish Pub.

National Geographic. 2020. Wild Turkey. [online] Available at: <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/w/wild-turkey/> [Accessed 15 November 2020].

Tikannen, A., 2020. Turkey | Description, Habitat, & Facts. [online] Encyclopedia Britannica. Available at: <https://www.britannica.com/animal/turkey-bird> [Accessed 15 November 2020].

BirdWeb. 2020. Wild Turkey. [online] Available at: <http://birdweb.org/birdweb/bird/wild_turkey> [Accessed 15 November 2020].

McCullough, J. 2001. "Meleagris gallopavo" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 15, 2020 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Meleagris_gallopavo/

BirdLife International. 2018. Meleagris gallopavo. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22679525A132051953. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22679525A132051953.en. Downloaded on 15 November 2020.

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