South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Wild Turkey

Meleagris gallopavo

Length: 37 to 46 inches Wingspan: 4 to 5 feet Seasonality: All Seasons
ID Keys: Distinctive, with very large size

Wild Turkey - Meleagris gallopavoWild Turkey numbers were seriously depleted by the beginning of the 20th century, but have gradually increased in numbers and in range, thanks in part to reintroduction efforts.  Despite its large size, the Wild Turkey is a strong flier, and typically roosts at night in tall trees.  Note the males courtship posture in many of the photos below, strutting with spread tail feathers for nearby females.

Habitat: Prefers woodland edges or near woodland clearings.   

Diet: Omnivorous.  May feed on seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, roots, insects, snakes, frogs, lizards, and snails.

Behavior: Forages by walking slowly along the ground, grabbing food items from the ground or low in the vegetation.  Typically most active near dawn and dusk.

Nesting: April through July.  The nest of a Wild Turkey is a shallow depression on the ground, lined with a bit of vegetative material.  The female usually lays between 10 and 15 eggs, and she alone incubates them.  When the eggs hatch, the young leave the nest almost immediately.  The female will tend to the young and protect them, but the young feed themselves.

Breeding Map: Breeding bird survey map

Song: Loud gobbling, also various clucking calls.

Migration: Generally permanent residents, although some may wander in the fall.

Similar Species: Unique, not likely to be confused with another species.

Conservation Status: Increasing in range and in numbers due to reintroduction programs. The IUCN lists the Wild Turkey as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Wild Turkey

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Wild Turkey"

3) Wild Turkey

Photo Information: January 15th, 2012 - Minnehaha County, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Wild Turkey photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Wild Turkey - Range map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon to common permanent resident in suitable habitat across the state.