Wild Turkeys at Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge 

From April 27 – 28

We saw a number of wild turkeys at Doris Campground in the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge.

Because a took a large number of photos of the turkeys, I decided to split them off into their own post.

All these photos are from our turkey sightings on April 27 & 28.

We first saw the wild turkeys in an uninhabited campground loop. There were five Tom turkeys and about three hen turkeys pretending to ignore the males. The exact number of females was hard to determine. The males stayed in one big group promenading in their best mating postures. The females were often in high grass making them hard to spot unless they raised their heads.

When we settled into our campsite, we saw the turkeys cross the road and come over to our campground loop. The females were in the lead grazing on whatever looked appealing. The males followed behind looking as dignified and pompous as possible.

A female turkey. Note her really long legs.

We watched them enter the camping area and seemed completely unafraid of humans.

Jon and I walked over to get a better view. I took a lot of photos.

Later in the day, once we had gotten back from our hike, two male turkeys in their normal attire came over to our campsite to forage. The males look so much smaller when they aren’t all poofed up.

And they look kind of like they are wearing a skirt when they are in the in between stages.

All of the turkeys in the US are in the same genus and species (Meleagris gallopavo). This includes the turkeys which have been domesticated. The white domesticated turkeys have been bred with such large breasts that they can no longer breed naturally. See Dirty Jobs if you want a hands on demonstration.
Wild turkeys almost became endangered in the 1960s due to excessive hunting. Restrictions were put in place and efforts to relocate turkeys were a huge success. There are now large numbers of wild turkeys.

Most turkeys in the US are derived from the Mexican Turkeys that the Spanish settlers brought back to Europe. They were then brought back to the new world with English settlers. Some of those turkeys escaped and became wild again. So between the native turkeys and escaped turkeys, there are a number of different subspecies of wild turkeys.

Wild Turkey Subspecies

For the most part, the easiest way to tell them apart is by the banding in their tails and their location.

On the eastern part of the US, the turkeys generally have a rufous colored band (a reddish-brown color) at the tips of their tails. Merriam’s wild turkeys are found in the western parts of the US (between New Mexico up to Wyoming and Oregon). Their distinguishing feature is the cream colored tip of their tail feathers.

The turkeys at this campground were the Rio Grande subspecies. The Rio Grande turkeys are found in the southern more central and western states like Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Utah. They have longer legs, a tan to cream tip their tails, and are more generally lighter brown with a copper and green iridescence to their feathers. They are also supposed to be gregarious, and these were certainly that.

Those features are hard to tell when they are in the shade.
Once we saw a few males in the sun, it was much more obvious.

The turkeys really made this place special. I hope you enjoy the photos.

The Wikipedia entry was very helpful.

Wikipedia Wild Turkey Entry

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