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Iowa's Big Bird: The Wild Turkey
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Iowa's Big Bird: The Wild Turkey

The Thanksgiving table isn't the only place a turkey can be found. In the forests of Iowa, the Wild Turkey strolls with its head high and feathers pulled back. Turkeys, or Gobblers, come in two extant species; the Wild Turkey and the Ocellated Turkey. The Ocellated Turkey is found in the forests of Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, while the Wild Turkey occupies North America from Mexico through the Midwest and Eastern United States to Southern Canada. 

 three turkeys                               

By the early 1900s, the Wild Turkey was hunted to near extinction with the number of birds being as low as 30,000. For many years they were absent from the forests of Iowa until 1966 when the Iowa DNR initiated a program to return the Wild Turkey to Iowa. They released turkeys in several sites across the state. Since then, the population of the Wild Turkey has grown across the state. 

The average male turkey weighs 16-22 lbs with seven-inch long beard feathers on his chest and sharp spurs on his feet for fighting. The female, or hen, however, is smaller weighing 8-12 lbs and has no beard or spurs. The turkey can run up to twenty-five miles per hour and fly up to fifty-five miles per hour. Wow! That's fast...and slightly terrifying. I wouldn't want to get on a turkey's bad side. Yikes! 


A group of male turkeys will band together to court the hens even though only one member of the pack gets to mate. Talk about a wing-man! When the hen is ready to make little turkeys, called poults, she'll lay 10-12 eggs. That's one egg per day for two weeks. After 28 days, the eggs hatch and the babies feed. They eat berries, seeds, and insects, while the adults have a more varied diet such as acorns and small reptiles.  

How cool are Turkeys?! I hope you learned something new. I know I did! 

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