More about turkeys

Two turkeys

Two turkeys

A turkey is either of two living species of large birds in the genus “Meleagris”.

One species, “meleagris gallopavo”, commonly known as the Wild Turkey, is native to the forests of North America. The other species, “meleagris ocellata” known as the Ocellated Turkey, is native to the forests of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico.

The Domestic Turkey is descended from the Wild Turkey. Turkeys are classed in the taxonomic order of Galliformes. Within this order they are relatives of the family/subfamily Tetraonidae (grouse).

Turkeys have a distinctive fleshy wattle that hangs from the underside of the beak, and a fleshy protuberance that hangs from the top of its beak called a snood. With wingspans of 1.5 – 1.8 metres (almost 6 feet), the turkeys are by far the largest birds in the open forests in which they live. As with many Galliform species the female (hen) is smaller than the male (tom or gobbler) and is much less colourful.

The name given to a group of turkeys is a rafter, although they are sometimes incorrectly referred to as a gobble or flock.

Several other birds which are sometimes called “turkeys” are not particularly closely related; The Australian brush Turkey is a Megapode, and the bird sometimes known as the “Australian Turkey” is in fact the Australian Bustard, a Gruiform.

The bird sometimes called the “Water Turkey” is actually an Anhinga.

While large domesticated turkeys are generally unable to fly, the smaller wild turkeys can fly extremely well. This allows them to perch in the branches of trees.

Turkey poults (chicks) are unable to fly for the first two weeks after they hatch.