• Wind Cave National Park - Two Worlds

    Wind Cave

    National Park South Dakota

Birds - Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey - Meleagris gallopavo
Wild Turkey - Meleagris gallopavo subspecies merriami
NPS Photo
 

In addition to being a popular holiday food and Ben Franklin's candidate for the national bird, the wild turkey was plate number 1 painted by John James Audubon in his book The Birds of America.

The wild turkey is the largest North American wild game bird. It is a heavy-bodied, gallinaceous (chicken-like) bird. Its appearance is more streamlined than its domestic counterpart, with longer legs and neck and a smaller, flatter head.

Turkeys eat acorns, fruit, seeds and sometimes grasshoppers and even small snakes!

The weight of a wild turkey varies with age and sex. The females, or hens, generally weigh between 8 and 14 pounds. Male turkeys, called gobbler, weigh between 15 and 28 pounds.

Turkeys are weak fliers and prefer to avoid danger by running. They roost in trees at night. The increase or decrease in light intensity is the stimulus that causes then to ascend to or descent from their roosts.

The color of naked head and neck areas of the turkey may change. A pale color indicates the turkey is disturbed or frightened. Bright red is a response to a threat and blue is seen during courtship.

Turkeys are not native to the Black Hills. Because of intense hunting pressure and destruction of their forest habitat, turkey populations were threatened nationwide. In an effort to ensure the survival of the species, wild game managers introduced turkeys into areas of suitable habitat. The Black Hills is a place where the introduction of turkeys was successful.

Wild turkeys are sometimes seen in Wind Cave National Park along Highway 87 in Reeves Gulch and along County Road 101, south of the park near the Buffalo Gap.

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