Courting Wild Turkeys

After many years of decline, wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are now found in all continental states. There are four wild turkey subspecies within the United States, with two additional subspecies found in Mexico. Wild turkeys prefer open woods bordered by clearings, particularly where oaks are prevalent.

In the spring, male wild turkeys gather in small groups to perform courtship displays. Courting males puff their feathers until they look like feathery balls and flare their erectile tails into a vertical fan. With their wings lowered, the males strut slowly while gobbling, drumming and even spitting. Successful males breed with multiple mates. After the breeding season males gather in groups and do not assist in incubation or the rearing of young.

Female wild turkeys make a carefully hidden nest on the ground by scraping a shallow hollow which they line with leaves. The female lays 4 to 17 pale buff eggs speckled with reddish or pink spots. The eggs hatch in about 28 days (the range is 25 to 31 days). The precocial (covered in down and able to move about) chicks leave the nest within 12 to 24 hours. The mother will feed the hatchlings for up to two days after which they can acquire their own food.  Two or more hens often unite their broods into a small flock.

Leonard and I saw these wild turkeys on the flanks of Lower Table Rocks near Medford OR (Jackson County). There were about four males strutting and about three females that appeared receptive. (It was difficult to separate the sexually active birds from other birds in the vicinity.) The photographs show strutting males, a pair in the process of mating and a female running off immediately after copulation.

More information about wild turkeys may be found in my previous post: “Wild Turkey” on 01-25-2013.


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6 Responses to Courting Wild Turkeys

  1. rockie96054 says:

    I have only seen wild turkeys once about 15yrs ago. My daughter & I were four wheeling on Big Valley Mountain and saw them.

  2. tonytomeo says:

    Oh my! Turkeys are such a problem here! They scratch around in gardens, and make so much noise. There are more of them than ever!

  3. Great shots! Fantastic that you got to see them mating, and without disturbing them. I’ve often wondered how the females manage to keep their nests hidden from predators. Maybe they just defend them.

    • gingkochris says:

      I never saw a wild turkey nest. However, if their nests are similar to those of other species that nest on the ground, wild turkey nests are well hidden and camouflaged. Often I nearly step on a meadowlark or quail nest before the parent flushes and alerts me to its location.

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