About animals

Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) Wild turkey (eng.)


At the beginning of the first millennium AD, almost 15 centuries before the expedition visited the Columbus of the New World, American Indians began to domesticate large fleshy birds with iridescent plumage, with a bright appendage hanging from the forehead at the base of the beak and the same fold in the upper, fledged part of the neck, with long, strong legs, wings, small for their body weight, and ridiculous jerking.

They began to play a huge role in the daily life of the Indian tribes, and the newcomers who came from the Old World christened them turkeys. Up to this point turkeys never met, except in America, which allows us to consider it their first and only homeland.

The tender meat of these harmless birds was one of the favorite dishes of the natives. The slaughtered bird was coated with clay and baked on coals, then chopping the burnt crust and removing it with the adhering feathers. If the bird was pre-plucked, all the feathers went into business. Women wove bundles of short and soft feathers into their clothes, large and bright were used as jewelry at ceremonies and religious rites. Long and hard feathers from the wings of turkeys, male hunters feathered their arrows, from broken and pointed bones of their legs made all kinds of needles and awls.

The voice of a turkey
Voice of turkeys
Sounds made by turkeys

In many ways, the abundance of this shy, but defenseless bird also determined the success of the colonialists in the development of North America, where soon, along with venison, the turkey became the decoration of the first settlers, a traditional Thanksgiving dish. Together with other treasures of the American continent, Spanish, Portuguese, English ships exported turkeys to Europe.

The turkey family of the chicken order includes two species of birds: agriocharis and meleagris, homemade turkey and wild turkey. The latter has six subspecies, two of which have developed the south-west of the American continent, and the remaining four - the east. But over the course of centuries, their range has changed, now expanding, then narrowing under the influence of natural factors and humans. So the ordinary wild Mexican turkey considers Southern Mexico its homeland, and today it is also found in the more northern regions of the Sierra Madre. Her domesticated descendants populated Europe and Asia: bronze broad-chested, Beltsville, English mini, North Caucasian, Moscow white, Tikhoretsky black.

All turkeys live in herds, on a patch of about 8 km 2. In the summer, these groups consist mainly of chickens and their offspring. Adult roosters or "toms", as they are called in America, keep alone or in small companies of several males. In the mating season, which begins in March-April, roosters invoke females with loud kuldykany, to which they must respond, ineptly imitating males.

Turkey reaches puberty at the 10-11th month of life and make a clutch of 8-15 eggs, the incubation period of which is about 28 days. The hens are sitting on the eggs, and their less bright colors, in comparison with the roosters, serve them well here, hiding from predators, because in this period the turkeys are most defenseless.

The chicks that have just been born already have excellent hearing and distinguish between the mother's voice and others. On the twelfth day, feathers begin to grow. For about a month, the turkey does not leave the place of masonry and does not join its herd, hiding the chicks. For despite the fact that the chicks have an instinctive sense of danger, this period is the most dangerous in their life: more than half of the chicks die from a predator in the first two weeks after their birth, not yet learning how to fly. Then the turkey with its brood joins the herd, but for about six months the chicks prefer to stay close to their mother, and after this the young growth becomes completely independent.

On average, turkeys live for about three yearsbut record holders were also registered: some managed to survive and not get hit by a predator or a fly by a person ten, or even twelve years.

In the XVII - XVIII centuries, at the beginning of the development of North America by European immigrants, its wealth seemed limitless. But virgin forests in the east of the country fell under the axes of the colonialists in need of building material, numerous herds of turkeys lost their home. However, if only the axes of the lumberjacks were their enemies!

The Europeans liked the tender meat, industrial hunting began for turkeys. The local and European markets demanded more and more victims, the number of hunters harvested grew annually. Nature did not have time to restore what was removed from it.

At the beginning of the 20th century, wild turkey disappeared from 15 American states and some provinces of Canada. Any significant herds survived only in the south-east of the country, in other places the livestock totaled only a few dozen miraculously surviving birds. The eastern Florida subspecies is best preserved. However, all of the turkeys combined in 1930 left a quarter of a million.

The nation was worried - turkeys, a favorite Thanksgiving meal, disappeared from the markets, became a rare treat and even luxury. Under pressure from the public and conservation societies, the federal government and state legislators are enacting laws to protect wild turkey habitats and streamline hunting. Their industrial production is prohibited, special hunting security agencies are being created.

The restoration of the turkey population was also helped by socio-demographic factors. More and more people strove into the city, many small farms went bankrupt, stalled, the vacant spaces were again overgrown with trees - and once their habitats were returned to the turkeys.

Already in 1940, there was a significant increase in populations of various species, but nature lovers and scientists did not stop their efforts. Programs were developed and implemented to capture birds in the restored populations and transport them to other areas where they were completely exterminated. In this case, some American states acted as disinterested donors for their neighbors; some exchanged turkeys for the species of animals that were destroyed from them, for example, river otters, moose, black grouse. By 1991, the turkey stock was restored, and some of their subspecies even expanded their original range.

A turkey is still a Thanksgiving American table decoration.

Based on materials from The World magazine - Lana Kuksina

Bird description

Among domestic birds, turkeys are second only to ostriches. The live weight of an adult male turkey is in the range from 9 to 35 kg. Turkeys are much more modest in size, their weight is from 4.5 to 11 kg. Birds have a wide tail and long legs. Their heads and necks are decorated with so-called “corals” - characteristic skin outgrowths. In addition, males have another such outgrowth hanging from the top of the beak, which in an excited turkey can reach 15 cm in length. The color of plumage of turkeys is very different with a predominance of black, white and bronze shades in individual breeds.

The origin of the bird and its domestication

Even before the Europeans, led by Christopher Columbus, discovered America, the locals domesticated the wild turkey. It was from the New World that the bird came to Spain at the beginning of the 16th century, and from there - to France, Great Britain and other European countries. That is why, among different peoples, a turkey is known either as "Spanish chicken", then as "Turkish chicken", or as "Indian chicken". It all depends on where exactly the bird was brought into this or that country.


Turkeys are classified into modern and ancient breeds, depending on the time period of their popularity (after and before the 20th century, respectively). Also, like other poultry, there are meat, egg and mixed breeds of turkeys.

Popular breeds

People began to breed various breeds of turkeys from the moment birds appeared in Europe, that is, from the 16th century, thanks to which, by the end of the 20th century, scientists reported 31 species of turkeys. Until the 20th century, when breeding these birds, priority was given to their size. And the most popular were breeds that today belong to the ancient ones, for example, Norfolk black, Dutch or Cambridge, wide-chested bronze, narraganset. In modern poultry farming, the productivity of poultry is important, therefore the following turkey breeds are common:

Broad-breasted white or large turkey

The breed was bred in the middle of the last century in the USA. Birds are distinguished by an oval body with a massive wide chest. The color of the plumage is white with a black bunch of feathers on the breast. The legs are strong, pink. Egg production ranges from 90 to 120 eggs per year. Turkeys of this breed are divided into three categories depending on their live weight:

  • Lungs (turkey weight up to 9 kg, turkeys up to 5 kg), industrial breed.
  • Medium (male weighs 17 kg, females - 7 kg),
  • Heavy (adult turkey gains weight 23 - 26 kg, turkey - about 10 kg).

Broad-chested Bronze Turkey

The breed was bred in America as an industrial meat and egg bird. That is why this species is one of the largest in size. An adult turkey gains 18-20 kg of live weight, a female - 10-11 kg. A bird gives up to 120 eggs per year. A broad-breasted bronze turkey has an oval body with a massive sloping chest and strong, widely spaced legs. The males are distinguished by a beautiful and lush fan-shaped tail. The name of the breed reflects the characteristic color of its plumage - dark with a chestnut tint reminiscent of bronze.

Beltsville turkey

The breed is named after its breeding place - the city of Beltsville, Maryland, USA. It belongs to meat species of poultry. The live weight of adult turkeys is in the range of 8-10 kg, turkeys - 4.5-5.5 kg. The female lays up to 100 eggs a year. The color of the plumage of the Beltsville turkey is white. The body is small with a wide chest and a small head with bulging eyes. Paws are thin. In addition, probably in almost every country there are local varieties of turkeys obtained by selection. For example, in Russia such breeds are popular as Moscow White, Moscow Bronze, North Caucasian White, Tikhoretsky Black.

Turkey content

Turkeys, unlike many other poultry, can fly. Therefore, the birds are either trimmed with wings or kept in closed tall houses. To keep these birds, you need a spacious house without holes and cracks in the walls, as turkeys are very susceptible to dampness and cold. Zones of temperate, warm and dry climate are best suited for birds. In the south wall of the house, 15 cm from the floor, a hole is made to go out. Turkeys need room for walking - a fenced yard near the house. Up to 30 turkeys and 3-4 turkeys are housed in one house (approximate calculation: 8-12 females per 1 male). At a height of about 1 m from the floor, perches are made of wooden boards with nests 60 cm by 60 cm by 60 cm in size. As a rule, one such nest is enough for five turkeys. Turkeys regularly have ash baths to get rid of feather parasites. For this, wood ash and fine sand (1: 1) are poured into a spacious wooden box and left in the house.

Food and feed for turkeys

For a day, an adult turkey needs about 250 g of dry food, turkey - up to 400 g. Among grain feeds for turkeys, crops such as corn, barley, oats, millet, oilcake and bran of these crops are suitable. In addition, the diet of birds includes potatoes, sugar beets, swede, greens and protein foods - cottage cheese, meat waste, milk. To improve digestion, ground shell and gravel are added to the feed mixtures. In summer, turkeys are given more greens and vegetables. In winter, birds are fed with acorns (40 g per meal) and chopped needles.

Breeding turkeys

Turkeys lay eggs twice a year - in spring and autumn. However, autumn eggs are rarely left to hatch, as late chicks are difficult to grow. The eggs of turkeys weigh from 75 to 90 g, they are dark in color. After the sock of the eggs has ended, up to two dozen eggs are laid under the female, which she patiently incubates for 28-30 days. Turkeys are distinguished by their excellent ability to incubate eggs, which is why in households they often lay chicken, goose and duck eggs under them. Turkeys hatch in about a month. For one cycle of turkeys, depending on the breed, they give from 90 to 150 eggs.

Growing young

The turkey poultry is kept in a warm place with a temperature not lower than +19 ° C. On the first day after the birth of the chicks they are not fed, they give only water with sugar (1 tablespoon per liter of water). From the second day of life they are fed soft food from a mixture of finely chopped boiled eggs, white bread soaked in milk, boiled rice and small wheat, corn or oatmeal. Water is given in large quantities, always boiled. From the third day, turkey is added to the diet with yogurt and cottage cheese, as well as greens. The first ten days of life of the chicks are fed every 2 hours. And after 10 days they begin to gradually transfer to dry grain mixtures. At the age of more than 3 weeks, the chicks are transferred to coarse grain food (millet, hemp seed) with the addition of ant eggs or to compound feed. If it is warm and dry outside, young animals are allowed to walk into the courtyard. In two months, the poultry fledge and are grazed with adult turkeys. From six months, birds are considered adults.

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Common Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

Common turkey(Meleagrisgallopavo), its homeland is North America, and it is the largest member of the Galliformes family. It is the same species as the domestic turkey, which is a domesticated subspecies of the South American common turkey.

An adult common turkey has long legs from pinkish-yellow to grayish-green and a black body. Males are large, with a pinkish head without feathers, a red throat and a red beard on the throat and neck. There is a fleshy growth on the head. When the males are excited, the fleshy outgrowth swells, the beard and neoplastic skin on the head and neck are filled with blood, almost completely hiding the eyes and beak. Each paw has three fingers, the males have a spur on the shins on the back. The turkey has a long, dark, fan-shaped tail and shiny bronze wings. The male is much larger than the female, his feathers in some places with red, purple, green, copper-red, bronze and golden overflow. The feathers of the female are dull, with a shade of brown and gray. Parasites can make the color of both sexes more dull; in males, the color can serve as an indicator of health. First-order feathers have white stripes. Turkey has 5,000 to 6,000 feathers. Plumage of the same length in adults, and different lengths in young turkeys. Males usually have a beard, a tuft of stiff hair (altered feathers) growing from the center of the chest. The goatee is usually 9 inches (230 mm) long. In some populations, 10-20% of females have a beard, usually shorter and thinner than males. An adult male typically weighs 5 to 11 kg (11-24 pounds) and is 100-125 cm (39-49 inches) long. An adult female is usually much smaller: from 3 to 5.4 kg (6.6-12 pounds) and 76 to 95 cm (30-37 inches) in length. Wingspan from 1.25 to 1.44 m (49-57 inches). The largest male common turkey, according to the National Federation of Wild Turkey Hunting, is a male weighing 17.2 kg (38 pounds).

Flight and voice

Wild turkeys are surprisingly skilled flyers and very cunning birds, unlike domestic turkeys. Turkeys are very careful birds: they fly away or run away at the first sign of danger. Their ideal habitat is light woodland or savannah, where they can fly under the canopy and find a perch. They usually fly low to the ground, not more than a quarter mile (400 m). Turkeys can make a variety of sounds: they can sniff, clack, rumble, screech, howl and cluck.In early spring, turkey males, also called turkeys, are kooking to show their presence to competing females and males. The turkey also makes a low “drum” sound produced by the movement of air in the air “bag” in the chest, similar to the sound of a meadow grouse. They also produce a sound similar to the spitting sound, which is a gross expulsion of air from their air “bag”. Females squeal to report their whereabouts. Turkeys often squeal like females, and females can sniff, although they rarely do. Young turkeys often sniff.


Wild turkeys are omnivores, feed on the ground, climbing up bushes and small trees in search of food. They prefer to eat solid fruit, such as acorns, nuts, including hazelnuts, chestnuts, hickory and pine nuts, as well as various seeds, berries, such as juniper and bear berry, roots and insects. Turkeys are sometimes eaten by amphibians and small reptiles. chicks feed on insects, berries and seeds. Wild turkeys often feed on cow pastures. They sometimes go to the backyard of the breadwinners to look for seeds on the ground or, in rare cases, go to arable land after harvesting to pick up leftovers from the thresher on farms. Turkeys also eat various grass. The turkey population can be enormous due to the fact that they can eat different types of food. The best time to eat is in the early morning or late afternoon.

Social structure and marriage games

Males are polygamous; they mate with as many females as they can. Turkey demonstrates to the female his tousled feathers, spreading his tail and dragging wings behind him. Their heads and necks are brightly colored red, blue or white. Color may change depending on the mood, the most excited look is a pure white head and neck. To show social dominance and to attract females, turkeys sniff, “drum” and “spit”. Courts begin in March-April, when the turkeys still live in the pack at the wintering place. Turkeys sometimes they are looked after in groups, the dominant male sniffs with its tail plumage spread, “drumming” and “spitting”. After research, it turned out that the main turkey, who was courting paired with another, becomes the father of the number of eggs six more than the one that was caring alone. A genetic analysis of the pairs of caring turkeys together showed that they are closely related and half of their genetic material is identical. The theory is based on the fact that a less dominant male grooming in a pair is more likely to transmit common genetic material than if he was grooming alone. After mating, females look for a place for nesting. Nests - dirty grooves covered with woody vegetation. Females lay 10-14 eggs, usually one per day. Hatch eggs for at least 28 days. Chicks brood, leave the nest after 12-24 hours. Raccoons, possums, striped skunks, gray foxes, birds of prey, woodchuck, and others hunt for turkey eggs and chicks. rodents, spotted skunk, rat snake, gopher snake and pine snake. They hunt adults and chicks - coyotes, lynxes, cougars, golden eagles and virgin owls (except males), as well as red foxes. The main enemies of adult turkeys are people. The distribution and population of wild turkey in the early 20th century decreased due to hunting and loss of habitat. Hunters say that in the early 1900s. the entire population of wild turkeys in the United States totaled only 30,000 individuals. By the beginning of the 1940s they were completely exterminated in Canada, they barely managed to survive in remote areas of the United States. Officials have attempted to protect birds and facilitate the reproduction of the surviving wild population. As the population of wild turkeys increased sharply, hunting was declared legal in 49 states of America (except Alaska). In 1973, the total population numbered 1.3 million individuals; the current population is estimated at 7 million individuals. In recent years, thanks to catch-and-pass projects, wild turkey has been reintroduced in several provinces of Canada, sometimes even brought turkeys from other countries.


Wild turkey subspecies may have slightly distinguishable differences in color, habitat and behavior. There are six subspecies of turkeys:

Eastern Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris)

This was the first species of turkey that was first discovered in the wild by Puritans, the founders of Jamestown and the French-Acadians. The distribution environment of such turkeys is the most extensive of all subspecies. They inhabit the entire eastern part of the United States, and also live in southeastern Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and the coastal provinces of Canada. There are from 5.1 to 5.3 million birds. For the first time they were called forest turkeys in 1817, they can grow up to 1.2 m (4 ft) in growth. At the tip of the upper tail coverts there is a brown-chestnut frame. Males can weigh up to 30 pounds. To turkey Meleagrisgallopavosilvestrishunt intensively in the eastern United States, and it is a subspecies of the wild turkey that is hunted the most.

Osceola Wild Turkey or Florida Wild Turkey (M. g. osceola)

It lives only on the peninsula of Florida. Their number is from 80,000 to 100,000 birds. The bird was named after the commander of the Osinola Seminole tribe, and for the first time this bird was described in 1890. It is smaller and darker than a wild turkey. Meleagrisgallopavosilvestris.The plumage of the wings is very dark with a small amount of white stripes, as in other subspecies. The plumage on the whole body is iridescent green-purple. Often lives in an area where palmetto grows and sometimes near swamps, where there are many amphibians.

Rio Grande Wild Turkey (M. g. Intermedia)

It lives in areas from Texas to California, New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon and is introduced in central and western California, as well as in parts of the northeastern states. This turkey was also introduced to the state of Hawaii in the late 1950s. The population is from 1,022,700 to 1,025,700 individuals. This subspecies is natural in the central states with plains. They were first described in 1879, they have relatively long legs, better adapted to life on the prairies. Their plumage with a copper-green overflow. The feathers on the tip of the tail and lower back of the buffalo are very light yellow-brown. Habitat - areas with dense shrubs near streams, rivers or mesquite, pine and oak forests. These turkeys live in packs.

Merriam's Wild Turkey (M. g. merriami)

Common in the Rockies and neighboring prairies of Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota, as well as in the high table mountains of New Mexico. Their population numbers from 334,460 to 344,460 individuals. These turkeys live in yellow pine forests and mountainous regions. In 1900, she was named after Clinton Hart Meriam, the first head of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. On the tail and lower back white tips. They have a purple or bronze reflection on the plumage.

Gould's Wild Turkey (M. g. mexicana)

It is a natural species in the northern mountains of Mexico and most of southern Arizona and New Mexico. Are protected and regulated by law. First described in 1856. They live in small numbers in the United States, but are widespread in the northwestern parts of Mexico. Small populations have also established in southern Arizona. This turkey is the largest of all five subspecies. She has long legs, large feet and a longer tail. The main color of plumage is copper-red and greenish-golden. This subspecies is under serious protection due to the careless nature and status of the subspecies under threat.

South Mexican Wild Turkey (M. g. gallopavo)

This named subspecies is the only one that does not live in the United States and Canada. Aztecs domesticated a subspecies of turkeys from southern MexicoM.g.mexicana, resulting in a home turkey. The Spaniards brought this tamed subspecies to Europe in the mid-1500s, and from Spain they were taken to France, later to the UK as a farm animal, which has become the main delicacy for rich people. By 1620, it was so widespread that the English settlers of Massachusetts brought the turkey from England to the USA, not knowing that it has a larger closely related species that lives in the forests of Massachusetts. It is the smallest subspecies and is considered a subspecies to the point of extinction as of 2010.