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Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

There are two species of turkeys found in the prairie, the eastern wild turkey and the Rio Grande turkey. The eastern turkey is found in the Tallgrass prairie, areas with higher precipitation and more tree cover. The Rio Grande turkey is found in short and mixed grass prairies with a more arid climate with fewer trees. 

Adult male turkeys are referred to as “gobblers” or “toms.” Females are referred to as “hens” and are about half the weight of male wild turkeys. Mature eastern wild turkeys weigh an average of 9 kilograms (20 pounds), and the Rio Grande male turkeys weigh about 8 kilograms (18 pounds). Rio Grande turkeys are lighter in color than eastern wild turkeys. 

Turkeys have very keen hearing and eyesight. They can fly 64 to 89 kilometers (40 to 55 miles) per hour. However they usually outrun their predators, running 29 kilometers (18 miles) per hour. 

Turkeys have one of the most varied diets of any animal known. They eat foods depending on the availability. All ages of turkeys eat insects when they are available. Nesting hens eat snails, obtaining the required levels of calcium for egg shell production. Green plants supply the required Vitamin A, which accounts for 90% of all plant foods eaten throughout the year. During the summer, turkeys eat large quantities of insects, grass seeds, berries and green leaves. In the fall and early winter their diet changes to dogwood fruits, acorns, blackgum fruits, chittamwood fruits, hickory and pecan nut leavings from other foraging animals, and green grass. The most critical time for wild turkeys are late winter and early spring, due to availability of food. They will eat old seeds, tubers, green leaves, legume seeds and any remaining mast. 

Turkeys travel 1.6 to 3.2 kilometers (1 to 2 miles) per day, covering 81 to 405 hectares (200 to 1,000 acres).

Their annual home range can be as large as 4,047 hectares (10,000 acres). Spring movements can be as large as 24 to 32 kilometers (15 to 20 miles) in the western areas.