Wild turkeys are polygynous (one male mates with many females). Males try to attract females by calling (called "gobbling"). The gobbles of male wild turkeys can be heard more than 1.5 kilometers away (or about a mile). Males also try to attract females by "strutting". They do this by walking around with their tail fanned out, their wings dragging on the ground, their feathers puffed up and their throat puffed out.
Mating System: polygynous
Wild turkeys breed in early spring. Southern populations usually begin courtship activities in late January and northern populations begin in late February. Turkeys raise one brood of chicks per year.
Turkey nests are just shallow bowl-shaped holes scratched in the dirt. They are usually under dense brush or vines, or in deep grass. The female scratches out the nest and lays 4 to 17 eggs. She incubates the eggs for 25 to 31 days. The chicks are well-developed when they hatch. They are able to walk and feed themselves the day after they hatch. For the first two weeks after hatching, the female covers the chicks at night (called brooding) to protect them and keep them warm. She also protects them from predators. The young turkeys are called poults. Male poults stay with their mother through the fall. Female poults stay with their mother until spring.
Turkeys can breed when they are about 10 months old. However, male turkeys usually do not breed this young because females prefer to mate with older males.
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 care for their chicks. The female parent does all of the parental care. The female makes the nest, incubates the eggs, and cares for the chicks.
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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