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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Wild Turkey -- Meleagris gallopavo
(formerly Turkey)


RANGE: Resident locally from central Arizona and central Colorado to northern Iowa, central Michigan, southern New Hampshire, and southwestern Maine south to southern Texas, the Gulf Coast, and Florida. Has been reintroduced into much of its former range, and successfully introduced locally in nearly all states outside the historic range.

STATUS: Locally fairly common.

HABITAT: Inhabits a wide range of forest types from the wooded swamps of the eastern and southeastern states to the sparsely wooded flatlands and river bottoms of the southern Great Plains and coniferous forests of the western mountains. In the East, prefers open, mature hardwood forests containing mast-bearing trees such as oaks; in the Southwest, prefers more arid, grass-dominated habitats having open- topped roosting trees, water, and succulent vegetation. In the West, most often associates with ponderosa or montane forests, scrub oaks, and junipers at altitudes of 6,000 to 12,000 feet.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Mast-producing woodlands with forest openings or clearings, large dense conifers or hardwoods for roosting, and water.

NEST: Nests in a slight depression on dry ground, usually in dead leaves at the base of a tree, beneath a bush, or under a log. Generally nests close to strutting grounds and near water. In western mountains, it usually nests on north-facing slopes from 7,000 to 9,500 feet in elevation.

FOOD: Diet is 90 percent plant foods, including mast of oaks, beeches, and pines; fruits; seeds and grains; and greens of grasses and forbs. Also eats roots, tubers, and insects, especially grasshoppers and walking sticks.

REFERENCES: Boeker and Scott 1969, DeGraff et al. 1980, Hillestad 1973, Johnsgard 1975a, Korschgen 1967, Ligon 1946, Lindzey 1967, Markley 1967.


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