Learn about the Wild Turkey Subspecies

Wild turkeys are among the most popular game animals in the world. 

The wild turkey subspecies are inherently challenging, incredibly alluring and unique in their own way. Each of the five subspecies display different physical and behavioral characteristics that define them. Get the 411 on each subspecies below: 

Eastern wild turkey

Eastern wild turkeys are the most widely distributed subspecies east of the Mississippi River. They are also the most abundant. In fact, you can find them in 38 states and numerous Canadian provinces.

Characteristics

  • Chestnut-brown tips on tail feathers
  • White and black bars on the wings
  • Adult males weigh 18 to 30 pounds
  • Adult females weigh 8 to 12 pounds
  • Very strong gobbles (strongest gobbles of all subspecies)
  • Very long beards (longest beards of all subspecies)
  • Second to the Osceola in difficulty of calling in

Osceola (Florida) wild turkey

The Florida wild turkey (also referred to as the Osceola) gets its name from its location. It’s only found in Florida. There are about 100,000 of them in Florida today.

Characteristics

  • Dark-brown tips on tail feathers
  • Mostly black wings with very small white bands
  • Adult males weigh approximately 20 pounds
  • Adult females weigh 8 to 12 pounds
  • Long legs
  • Strong gobbles
  • Very long spurs
  • Shorter beard-lengths than Easterns
  • Considered the toughest species to call in

Rio Grande wild turkey

The Rio Grande wild turkeys are concentrated in western desert regions of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and other western states. Mexico also harbors a healthy population.

Characteristics

  • Tan-colored tips on tail feathers
  • Same amount of black and white barring on wings
  • Adult males weigh approximately 20 pounds
  • Adult females weigh 8 to 12 pounds
  • Moderate gobbles
  • Moderate beard-lengths
  • Moderate spur-lengths

Merriam’s wild turkey

These wild turkeys are most abundant in the mountainous regions of the West. The Rocky Mountains are considered the central hub of the population.

Characteristics

  • Snow-white tips on tail feathers
  • More white and less black on wings
  • Adult males weigh 18 to 30 pounds
  • Adult females weigh 8 to 12 pounds
  • Weakest gobbles of all subspecies
  • Shortest beards of all subspecies
  • Shortest spurs of all subspecies

Gould’s wild turkey

The Gould’s wild turkey can only be found in Arizona, New Mexico and northern Mexico. It's population is few in numbers.

Characteristics

  • Long legs similar to the Osceola
  • Light-colored tips on tail feathers
  • Wings are moderate in coloration
  • Adult males weigh 18 to 30 pounds
  • Adult females weigh 8 to 12 pounds
  • Moderate gobbles
  • Moderate beard-lengths
  • Moderate spur-lengths

Ocellated wild turkey

This species can only be found in a 50,000 square mile area: in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, northern Belize and the El Petén region of northern Guatemala.

Characteristics

  • Rainbow-like iridescent feathering
  • Grey tail feathers with blue and gold tips
  • White and black wings
  • Adult Males weigh 11 to 12 pounds
  • Adult females weigh 6 to 7 pounds
  • High-pitched gobbles are preceded by a hollow drumming sound
  • No beard
  • Very long spurs
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