Eastern Turkey (Wild Turkey)

Meleagris gallopavo silvestris

Last updated: October 8, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Jim Cumming/Shutterstock.com

You can hear their gobbles up to a mile away!

Eastern Turkey (Wild Turkey) Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Galliformes
Family
Phasianidae
Genus
Meleagris
Scientific Name
Meleagris gallopavo silvestris

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Eastern Turkey (Wild Turkey) Conservation Status

Eastern Turkey (Wild Turkey) Locations

Eastern Turkey (Wild Turkey) Locations

Eastern Turkey (Wild Turkey) Facts

Prey
Acorns, nuts, seeds, berries, and insects
Main Prey
Nuts
Name Of Young
Poults
Group Behavior
  • Social
Fun Fact
You can hear their gobbles up to a mile away!
Estimated Population Size
Unknown
Biggest Threat
Hunting, climate change, and urbanization
Most Distinctive Feature
Red, featherless heads and iridescent coloring
Distinctive Feature
Fleshy flap on bill called a snood
Wingspan
4.1 to 4.9 feet
Incubation Period
28 days
Age Of Independence
4 months
Age Of Fledgling
12 to 24 hours
Habitat
Pastures, fields, and orchards
Predators
Racoons, opossums, skunks, foxes, and snakes.
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
Type
Bird
Common Name
Eastern turkey or wild turkey
Number Of Species
6
Location
North America
Nesting Location
shallow depression by woody vegetation

Eastern Turkey (Wild Turkey) Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Black
  • Grey-Brown
Skin Type
Feathers
Lifespan
7 years
Weight
5.5 to 24 pounds
Length
30 to 49 inches
Age of Sexual Maturity
7 months to 2 years

This post may contain affiliate links to our partners like Chewy, Amazon, and others. Purchasing through these helps us further the A-Z Animals mission to educate about the world's species..

View all of the Eastern Turkey (Wild Turkey) images!



Males have large featherless, reddish heads, necks, and wattles, with fleshy growths called caruncles.

Summary

The eastern turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) is a large upland ground bird native to North America. It inhabits hardwood forests with scattered clearings where it spends time foraging low to the ground or roosting in flocks in tall trees. These wild birds are loud and vocal, expressing themselves with various noises. Discover all there is to know about this magnificent North American bird, including where it lives, what it eats, and how it behaves.

5 Amazing Eastern Turkey Facts

  • You can hear their gobbles up to a mile away!
  • Unlike the domestic variety, wild turkeys are solid and agile fliers.
  • Males don’t assist in caring for their young. Poults follow after their mother and learn how to fend for themselves right after hatching.
  • The eastern turkey is the most hunted subspecies of wild turkey.
  • They forage with other animals like deer and squirrels, helping them stay more alert to predators as they feed.

Where to Find Eastern Turkey

The eastern turkey lives in North America in three countries: Canada, the United States, and Mexico. The eastern subspecies inhabits the entire eastern half of the United States from Maine to Northern Florida and as far west as Minnesota, Illinois, and Missouri. Its Canadian range extends into Southeastern Ontario and Southwestern Quebec. They live in hardwood forests with scattered openings like pastures, fields, orchards, and seasonal marshes. They prefer oak-hickory, red oak, beech, cherry, and white ash in the Northeast. Look for them foraging on the ground or walking along small bushes and trees, and listen for their many vocalizations.

6,513 People Couldn't Ace This Quiz

Think You Can?

Eastern Turkey Nest

Females search for nest sites, which are shallow dirt depressions surrounded by woody vegetation. They typically place their eggs on a pile of twigs and sticks.

Scientific Name

The eastern turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) is a subspecies of wild turkey from the Galliformes order, which includes heavy-bodied ground-feeding birds like turkeys, chickens, and quail. The Phasianidae family has many of the most popular game fowl. Meleagris is the turkey genus, encompassing North America’s wild turkey and Mexico’s ocellated turkey. There are six recognized subspecies of wild turkey: Eastern, Osceola, Rio Grande, Merriam’s, Gould’s, and South Mexican.

Size, Appearance, & Behavior

turkeys roaming in the wild
There are two families of turkeys: Phasianidae and Meleagrididae.

iStock.com/davidsdodd


Articles Mentioning Eastern Turkey (Wild Turkey)

See all of our entertaining and insightful animal articles.


Eastern turkeys are large upland ground birds, measuring 30 to 49 inches long and weighing 5.5 to 24 pounds, with a 4.1 to 4.9-foot wingspan. Females are much smaller than males, weighing eight pounds less on average. Adults have black or gray-brown feathers with a coppery sheen. Males have large featherless, reddish heads, necks, and wattles, with fleshy growths called caruncles. These parts, along with the snood (fleshly flap on the bill), become engorged when excited. They have long fan-shaped tails, and their feathers have bronze, gold, red, purple, and iridescent areas. Females have duller feathers in shades of brown and gray.

Wild turkeys are loud, vocal birds who express themselves with many sounds, from gobbles, yelps, clucks, purrs, low-pitched drumming, and “spits” (sharp expulsions of air from the air sac). Their gobbles can be heard from a mile away! Despite their significant size, they are fast, agile fliers. You may see them flying under the canopy, searching for a perch, or gliding low to the ground. These birds are relatively social, roosting in flocks and foraging with other animals like deer and squirrels

Migration Pattern and Timing

Eastern turkeys are nonmigratory. They may move to areas with larger trees and closed canopies for increased warmth during the fall and winter.

Diet

The eastern turkey is an omnivore who forages in the early morning and late afternoon.

What Does Eastern Turkey Eat?

These wild turkeys eat acorns and nuts from various trees like hazel, chestnut, hickory, and pine. They also consume seeds, berries, buds, leaves, roots, grasses, and insects. And will occasionally eat amphibians, salamanders, snakes, and lizards. They forage on the ground or in low bushes and small trees. You can often find them feeding in cow pastures or visiting backyard feeders. 

Predators, Threats, and Conservation Status

The IUCN lists the eastern turkey as LC or “least concern.” Due to its extensive range and large, increasing population, this species does not meet the “threatened” status thresholds. They do not face any severe threats currently. But they may suffer from the future effects of climate change and urbanization. The eastern turkey is the most heavily hunted subspecies of wild turkey.

What Eats Eastern Turkey?

Wild turkey eggs and nestlings are vulnerable to raccoons, opossums, skunks, foxes, groundhogs, and snakes. Poults (poultry young) can be attacked by raptors, such as owls, hawks, and bald eagles. Adult eastern turkey predators include great horned owls, northern goshawks, domestic dogs, cats, coyotes, wolves, bobcats, golden eagles, and alligators. Wild turkeys and their young often run away when threatened, but they may lash out aggressively when cornered. They can kick with their legs and use their bony spurs as weapons. They may also bite with their beaks and ram with their bodies as a last effort.

Reproduction, Young, and Molting

Male eastern turkeys are polygamous and mate with as many hens as possible. They perform their courtship rituals during March and April while they are still flocked for winter. Males strut, gobble, boom, drum, and spit to show dominance and attract mates. Hens lay 10 to 14 whitish eggs and incubate them for 28 days. Their young, or poults, fledge the nest 12 to 24 hours after hatching. However, they stay with their mother for around four months. Males, or “toms,” become sexually mature at seven months old, and hens around one to two years. Their average lifespan is seven years, but they can survive up to 13.

Population

The global eastern turkey population is unknown, but their numbers have significantly increased in North America over the last 40 years. They are also not experiencing extreme fluctuations or fragmentations in their populations.

Sources:

View all 103 animals that start with E

About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer and content creator focusing on nature, wildlife, food, and travel. She graduated Kappa Beta Delta from Florida State College with a business degree before realizing writing was her true passion. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and enjoys hiking, reading, and cooking!

Eastern Turkey (Wild Turkey) FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where is eastern turkey?

The eastern subspecies inhabits the entire eastern half of the United States from Maine to Northern Florida and as far west as Minnesota, Illinois, and Missouri.

How big are eastern turkeys?

Eastern turkeys are large upland ground birds, measuring 30 to 49 inches long and weighing 5.5 to 24 pounds, with a 4.1 to 4.9-foot wingspan.

What sound does an eastern turkey make?

Wild turkeys are loud, vocal birds who express themselves with many sounds, from gobbles, yelps, clucks, purrs, low-pitched drumming, and “spits” (sharp expulsions of air from the air sac). Their gobbles can be heard from a mile away!

Do eastern turkeys migrate?

Eastern turkeys are nonmigratory. They may move to areas with larger trees and closed canopies for increased warmth during the fall and winter.

What do eastern turkeys eat?

These wild turkeys eat acorns and nuts from various trees like hazel, chestnut, hickory, and pine. They also consume seeds, berries, buds, leaves, roots, grasses, and insects.

What threatens the eastern turkey?

But they may suffer from the future effects of climate change and urbanization. The eastern turkey is the most heavily hunted subspecies of wild turkey.

What are eastern turkey predators?

Wild turkey eggs and nestlings are vulnerable to raccoons, opossums, skunks, foxes, groundhogs, and snakes.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Redlist / Bird Life International, Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22679525/132051953

Newly Added Animals

A Kissing Bugs
Kissing Bugs

Kissing bugs derive their name from the location they prefer to bite, which is usually close to the lips of the host

A Stoplight Loosejaw
Stoplight Loosejaw

Emit red light to hunt via bioluminescent photophores

A Kentucky Warbler
Kentucky Warbler

The Kentucky Warbler appears to wear bright yellow cat-eye glasses!

Most Recently Updated Animals

A Anna’s Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird wings beat 40-50 times per second during normal flight

A Kissing Bugs
Kissing Bugs

Kissing bugs derive their name from the location they prefer to bite, which is usually close to the lips of the host

A Buffalo Fish
Buffalo Fish

The oldest Buffalo fish recorded was 112 years old!