Meleagris gallopavo Photo Fiona Sunquist ©
Turkeys are large birds with strong legs and feet adapted for walking and scratching. They can run fast – up to 12 mile per hour, and surprisingly, they are strong fliers. Males can weigh up to 30 pounds (14 kg), females 10-12 pounds.
Turkeys are extremely wary birds, with good eyesight and hearing. They spend the day walking; they search out insects, acorns, berries and nuts, and use their strong feet to scratch through pine straw and leaf litter for seeds and other food. They roost in trees at night.
The American wild turkey is one of the most significant success stories in the history of North American Wildlife Management.
Turkeys were quite abundant at the time of European colonization of North America. By 1920, wild turkeys had been extirpated from 18 of 39 states, and by the Depression, only 30,000 turkeys were believed to survive in the United States.
Today there are an estimated 5.6 million turkeys in the United States, with sizeable populations in all states except Alaska.
The restoration is due largely to a consortium of federal and state agencies and sportsmen’s groups. The Target 2000 program, for example, is a long-term restoration effort sponsored by the National Turkey Federation in cooperation with private sportsmen’s groups and government agencies. The turnaround in the fortunes of the wild turkey began in 1937 with the passage of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, which placed a tax on firearms, ammunition and other hunting equipment. This tax has raised billions of dollars for wildlife restoration.
top of page | back to birds