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The wild relative of one of only two domesticated birds to have originated in North America, the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is one of the largest and most distinctive members of the Galliformes (a group of game birds which includes grouse, pheasants and partridges). Its hefty size, characteristic plumage and social behaviour are particularly admired in the United States, and, as a result, the wild turkey has long been a popular symbol of American wildlife. The wild turkey has long, powerful legs, a long neck, and a large, fan-shaped tail. The tip of the tail is usually chestnut-brown or white, depending on the subspecies. Generally, the wild turkey is dark brownish-grey to blackish, with an iridescent sheen to the feathers. The iridescence varies from copper, bronze and gold to green or red. The wing and tail feathers have alternating dark and light bands, and the wings are rounded, with large quill-like feathers. The head and neck are usually featherless, and are covered a series of raised bumps, called ‘caruncles’, which appear more prominent on the male. The long bill is curved slightly downwards. The male wild turkey, also called a ‘gobbler’ or a ‘tom’, has black tips to the feathers, often making it appear almost metallic black. The head and neck are usually varying shades of blue, red or white, and are adorned with fleshy growths, called wattles. The male wild turkey also has spurs on the legs, and a coarse group of bristles on the chest, forming a ‘beard’. In contrast, the female wild turkey, or ‘hen’, is much duller than the male, being brownish, with lighter tan to chestnut-brown feathers on the breast, mid-back and wing-coverts. The tips of the female’s feathers are often buff, brown, grey, rusty or white, and the head is usually blue-grey, sometimes covered with small, sparse brown feathers. The hen does not usually have a ‘beard.

Wild Turkey Subspecies



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