Wild Turkeys

Gobble up these facts about wild turkeys!

October 13, 2011

By the 1930s, the wild turkey, Meleagris gallopavo—the largest game bird native to North America—was almost extinct. Today, however, its numbers are close to 7 million, thanks to efforts to protect habitat, regulate hunting, and reintroduce wild-caught birds in suitable areas. There are five subspecies of wild turkeys populating most of the eastern United States and pockets of the South and West. Unlike its big-breasted, short-lived domestic cousins, the wild turkey maxes out at 20 pounds and has an average life span of almost 2 years.

Turkey Facts

  • A diet of nuts, seeds, insects, and berries makes finding a meal easy—at field and forest edges, throughout the suburbs, and especially in gardens.
  • Wild turkeys are territorial and feisty, and will stare down a human; if you find one sampling your garden, use a blast from a garden hose or a leashed dog to defend your turf. But don't touch—hunting out of season carries penalties.
  • Use wire-mesh barriers to prevent wild turkeys from grazing or dust bathing in garden beds.
  • A wild turkey can run up to 25 miles per hour.