Ocellated turkeys breed seasonally. Starting the first week of February, males begin to change in appearance, with crowns becoming enlarged and skin warts becoming more pronounced and colorful. From February through April males gobble and strut to attract mates. Just before strutting, a male wags his tail feathers from side to side. During the strut he spreads the tail fan, holds his head and neck back over the body, drags both wings on the ground, and vibrates one wing. He struts and circles a hen until she either leaves or squats down for copulation. Males may also gobble during a strut.
These breeding displays occur in open areas in the early morning before sunrise. After the sun rises, the birds return to the forest where the temperature is cooler. Males continue to gobble in the forest, while sitting on the ground.
Mating System: polygynous
The breeding season of ocellated turkeys occurs once yearly, with most breeding occurring from late March to mid-April. Hens lay 8 to 16 eggs (average 12) any time between mid-March and mid-May. Most poults hatch by mid-June, but hatching can range from early May to July. A study in Tikal (1993) showed that each hen produced an average of six poults.
Breeding interval: Ocellated turkeys breed once yearly.
Breeding season: Most breeding happens from late March to mid-April.
Range eggs per season: 8 to 16.
Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
The female begins her parental investment with building a nest in which to lay her eggs. The nest is built within the cover of dense vegetation, to hide it from predators. A small cavity is made in the ground and a few sticks and leaves are placed in and around the hole. When the chicks hatch, the hen will boldly fight, even risking her own life, to defend the lives of her offspring.
It is not known whether males provide any parental care. Work done in 1979 by Sugihara and Heston suggests that ocellated turkeys have a similar social system to that of American wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo), in which males do not generally provide parental care. Young turkeys are capable of walking and feeding soon after hatching.
Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence
- Gaumer, G. 1881. Notes on Meleagris ocellata, Cuvier. Transactions of the Annual Meetings of the Kansas Academy of Science, 8: 60-62.
- Sugihara, G., K. Heston. 1981. Field Notes on Winter Flocks of the Ocellated Turkey (Agriocharis ocellata). The Auk, 98/2: 396-398.
- Taylor, C., H. Quigley, M. Gonzalez. 2002. "Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata)" (On-line pdf). National Wild Turkey Federation. Accessed April 18, 2008 at http://www.nwtf.org/conservation/bulletins/bulletin_06.pdf#search%3D'ocellated%20turkey'.