Wild turkeys are polygynous. Males attempt to attract females by "gobbling" and "strutting" with their tail fanned out, their wings lowered and dragging on the ground, their back feathers erect, their head thrown back and their crop inflated. The gobbles of male wild turkeys can be heard more than 1.5 kilometers away (or approximately 1 mile).
Mating System: polygynous
Wild turkeys breed in early spring; southern populations begin courtship in late January and northern populations begin in late February. They raise one brood per season. The nest is a shallow depression in the ground, usually surrounded by dense brush, vines, tangles, deep grass, or fallen tree tops. The female scratches out the nest and lays 4 to 17 (usually 8 to 15) eggs. She incubates the eggs for 25 to 31 days. The chicks are precocial, and are able walk and feed themselves within 24 hours of hatching. The female broods the chicks at night for the first 2 weeks after hatching. She also defends them from predators, sometimes pursuing hawks or other predators. The young turkeys (called poults) stay with the female parent through the fall (males) or the early spring (females). Turkeys are capable of breeding at about 10 months old, though young males are typically not successful in competing with older males for mates during their first spring.
Egg dumping (laying eggs in another female's nest) is common in this species. This species is also known to lay eggs in the nests of ruffed grouse. Ring-necked pheasants are known nest parasites of wild turkeys.
Breeding interval: Wild turkeys breed once per year.
Breeding season: Courtship begins in early spring (January to February).
Range eggs per season: 4 to 17.
Range time to hatching: 25 to 31 days.
Range fledging age: 24 (high) hours.
Range time to independence: 4 to 10 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 10 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 10 months.
Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
Average eggs per season: 11.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
Sex: male: 365 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 365 days.
Male wild turkeys do not provide any parental care. Female wild turkeys prepare the nest, incubate the eggs, and care for the young until the next spring (fall for male poults). The chicks are precocial, and are able to walk and feed themselves within 24 hours of hatching.
Parental Investment: no parental involvement; precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Protecting: Female)
- Eaton, S. 1992. Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo). Pp. 1-28 in A Poole, P Stettenheim, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Vol. 22. Philadelphia, PA: The Academy of Natural Sciences; Washington, DC: The American Ornithologists' Union.
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