The turkey was first domesticated by the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica and is thought to have been brought to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. Turkeys were first introduced to North America by English settlers in the early 17th century.
Turkeys are organized into two subgroups first is wild turkeys and the second is Heritage turkeys. There are 6 wild turkey subspecies: Meleagris gallopavo silvestris, M. g. mexicana, M. g. oscellata, M. g. Merriami, M. g. Nelsoni, and M. g. intermedia. The first four are in North America, while the last two are in Mexico.
The most common heritage turkey breeds include American Bronze, the Beltsville Small White, the Bourbon Red, the Jersey Buff, the Narragansett, the Standard Bronze, and the Turkey Red.
There are many different turkeys, all of which have unique characteristics. Common types include the following:
- Heritage: This is an older turkey breed, leaner than the Broad Breasted varieties.
- Wild Turkey: These are not domesticated and are typically found in wooded areas.
- Broad Breasted White: The most common, with large breasts and short legs.
- Broad Breasted Bronze: It is similar to the Broad Breasted White but has darker skin.
Males (toms) are larger than females (hens) and have longer legs, broader tails, and more colorful plumage. Wild turkeys can fly for short distances at speeds of up to 55 kilometers per hour (34 miles per hour), but they prefer to run or walk. They are excellent swimmers and can even swim underwater to catch fish. They typically live in wooded areas with plenty of trees for roosting and hiding.
8 Types of Wild Turkeys
There are many types; the most common are the domesticated, the wild, and the Rio Grande. Other less common turkey species include the Goulds, the Ocellated, and the Osceola.
Domesticated is the most common and is typically larger than wild turkeys. It is also bred to have beautiful white feathers, which makes it different in appearance.
They can be found from the rocky mountains into Mexico.
The Wild turkey species is a large game bird native to North America. They are divided into two subspecies: the eastern and the western turkey. Eastern turkey is the more common of the two and is found in the eastern United States. The turkey prefers to live in wooded areas but can also be found in grasslands, scrublands, and even deserts.
They are the most prominent member of the genus Meleagris, which contains two other species: the ocelot and the red junglefowl.
The adults typically weigh between 4 and 7 kg (8.8 and 15.4 lb) but can range from 2 to 16 kg (4.4 to 35.3 lb). The males, or toms, are usually larger than the females or hens. The wild turkey is a sexually dimorphic species, meaning the male and female look different.
The male has a large, reddish-brown breast with copper-colored feathers, while the female has a browner breast. The male also has a long, dark tail bronze-colored, while the female has a shorter tail that is grayer in color.
This bird is a game bird hunting for sport and food. Turkey meat is lean and high in protein. It can be roasted, baked, or grilled. The breast meat is the They can also be made into sausage, jerky, or ground meat.
They are an omnivorous bird that feeds on various plants and animals, the diet includes acorns, nuts, fruits, seeds, insects, small reptiles, and mammals. It is also known to eat carrion (dead animals).
A popular game bird for hunters because it is relatively easy to find. The male is especially sought after because of its large breast. Female is less popular with hunters because they are smaller, and the meat is not as tender as the males.
The wild turkey is not considered a threatened or endangered species, but some subpopulations are declining. The main threat is habitat loss due to development and land-use change. Hunting also threatens them, but strict regulations have been put in place to help ensure that the population remains healthy.
1. Eastern Wild Turkey
Eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) is a wild subspecies that range from Maine to northern Florida and west to the Ohio River valley. These birds are the most abundant and widely distributed subspecies in North America.
Although once nearly extinct, due largely to overhunting, yet has returned in recent years thanks to conservation efforts and hunting regulations.
Eastern turkey is a large bird, with males (toms) averaging around 18 pounds and females (hens) averaging around 10 pounds. The body plumage of both sexes is predominantly dark brown or black, with some iridescent green, blue, and purple hues. The tail is long and broad and is tipped with white.
The head of Eastern Wild Turkey is relatively small compared to its body and is adorned with a red, fleshy protuberance known as a snood, as well as a red wattle or “beard” dangling from the lower throat. Both the snood and wattle are more pronounced in males than in females.
They are native to the eastern United States and southeastern Canada. Its range extends from Maine to northern Florida and west to the Ohio River valley. This one prefers habitats that offer a mix of open areas for foraging and wooded areas for roosting and nesting.
The diet consists primarily of seeds, nuts, fruits, and insects. In the spring and summer months, they also consume a variety of green plants and other vegetation.
This breed is hunted for sport and its meat. The meat is dark and lean, with a flavor that has been described as “gamey.” The meat is lower in fat and calories than chicken or beef and is a good source of protein.
When preparing for consumption, it is important to take care to avoid contamination by bacteria such as Salmonella or E. coli. This meat should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure safety.
Nutritionally is a good source of protein and essential amino acids, as well as B vitamins and minerals such as phosphorus and selenium. They are also relatively low in fat and calories, making it a healthier option than many other types of meat.
2. Gould's Turkey
Gould’s wild turkey (M. g. mexicana) is native to the southern United States, Mexico, and Central America. It has dark feathers with a purple, green, or copper hue. It is named after Jay Gould, an American businessman and railroad magnate who was one of the first to import this bird from the New Zealand and Australia region to the United States.
The Gould's are similar in appearance to others, with a dark brown body and wings and a white head and tail. The male is larger than the female, weighing up to 18 pounds (8 kg), while the female typically weighs between 10 and 12 pounds (4.5-5.4 kg).
This bird is found in wooded areas with dense vegetation, such as forests and jungles. Like most others, it prefers to nest in trees rather than on the ground. The Gould is a shy bird not often seen by humans.
The diet consists primarily of plants and insects. It will also eat small mammals, reptiles, and birds.
The Gould's turkey is hunted for its meat, considered some of the best-tasting meat. This bird can also be found in many zoos and game parks worldwide.
3. Rio Grande Wild Turkeys
Rio Grande wild turkey (M. g. intermedia) is a large, dark-colored turkey subspecies. It is named for the Rio Grande. They are one of North America's six subspecies. It is the largest and darkest of the five subspecies, with males weighing up to 18 pounds (8 kg) and females up to 10 pounds (4.5 kg).
The plumage is generally darker overall. The male's bodies are black with white bars, while the females are duller brown. Both sexes have red wattles and combs and long, dark tails. They are relatively long-legged birds, with males measuring up to 49 inches (124 cm) from beak to tail and females up to 39 inches (99 cm).
Their range extends from central and southern Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska south through Mexico to northern Honduras. It is the only wild turkey subspecies that are found in Mexico. They are a habitat generalist, occupying various habitats, including grasslands, woodlands, and forests.
The Rio Grande breed is omnivorous, eating various plant and animal foods; the diet includes seeds, fruits, leaves, insects, small mammals, and lizards. They typically forage in small groups, but large flocks can form during winter.
4. Ocellated Turkeys
Ocellated Wild turkey (Meleagris ocellata), live in the forests of Central America. It resembles North America but looks more colorful with iridescent blue and green feathers. The male also has two long tail feathers that hang down from the body and can be up to 3 feet long. This turkey breed is native to Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico.
Ocellated Wild is a forest bird that lives in the humid evergreen forests of Central America at elevations from sea level to 6,000 feet. It ranges from southern Mexico to northern Belize and Guatemala. The bird's diet consists mainly of fruits, nuts, insects, and small lizards.
It is hunted for its meat, considered some of the best-tasting turkey meat. The bird is also hunted for its beautiful feathers, used in making Native American ceremonial clothing and headdresses.
It is high in protein and low in fat. One cup of cooked turkey contains about 30 grams of protein and only 2 grams of fat, a good source of niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, and zinc.
When buying, looking for a plump bird with firm flesh is important. The skin should be free of blemishes, and it should be intact and usually sold whole or in parts.
5. Merriam's Wild Turkeys
Merriam's wild turkey (M. g. merriami) is a species native to North America. The bird is named after zoologist C. Hart Merriam, who first described it in 1874. The Merriam's wild ranges from southern Colorado and western Texas to northern Mexico and southeastern Arizona. It inhabits mountains, canyons, mesas, foothills, brushy plains, and woodlands.
Adults are 29–36 inches (74–91 cm) long, with a 3-4 foot (91-122 cm) wingspan. The tail makes up about two-thirds of the total length. Males typically weigh 8–16 pounds (3.6–7.3 kg), while females weigh 4–10 pounds (1.8–4.5 kg). The mean weight of adult males has been recorded as 10.2 pounds (4.6 kg), while the mean weight of adult females is 6.9 pounds (3.1 kg).
The plumage of both sexes is predominantly brownish black turkey, with a large area of bare, yellowish skin on the head and neck. The breast and lower parts are white and black barring. The wings are relatively short and pointed, with dark bars on the outer primaries. Merriam's is one of the smaller subspecies.
They are omnivorous, feeding on various plant and animal matter. The diet consists of acorns, nuts, berries, fruits, seeds, leaves, buds, insects, spiders, snakes, and small vertebrates.
They are hunted for sport and meat. The hunting is typically done in the springtime when males actively seek mates. The birds are also hunted in the fall and winter months.
6. Osceola Turkeys
Osceola turkey (M. g. osceola) is a subspecies native to the Osceola National Forest in Florida. The bird gets its name from the Seminole tribe's word for "black drink," a type of ceremonial tea made from the leaves of the yaupon holly tree. The Osceola wild turkey is one of six American Wild types found in North America and is the only subspecies native to Florida.
The Osceola wild turkey is smaller than other subspecies, with males weighing an average of 18 pounds and females weighing an average of 10 pounds. The birds are dark-colored, with black and white feathers and a red bald head. They are shy birds rarely seen in the wild.
This breed is found in the Osceola National Forest in Florida. The bird prefers to live in dense vegetation like swamps and wetlands. This is an endangered species, with an estimated population of fewer than 1,000 birds.
They are omnivorous birds, and their diet consists of insects, fruits, and nuts. The bird is hunted for its meat, which is considered a delicacy. It is also hunted for and used to make Native American ceremonial dress.
7. South Mexican Wild Turkeys
South Mexican wild turkey (M. g. gallopavo) is a bird species in the family Phasianidae. The species is endemic to Mexico. It is found in the Sierra Madre Occidental of western Mexico, in the states of Jalisco, Colima, Michoacán, and Guerrero.
They are a subspecies of Merriam's wild turkey. It was first described by American ornithologist Joel Asaph Allen in 1902. The South Mexican wild turkey is slightly smaller than the Merriam's.
Adult males have a body length of about 1.5 m (4.9 ft) and weigh 4-5 kg (8.8-11 lb). Adult females have a body length of about 1.4 m (4.6 ft) and weigh 3-4 kg (6.6-8.8 lb).
The South Mexican wild turkey is an important game bird in Mexico. It is hunted for food and also for sport. The meat is dark and lean. It is considered to be a delicacy in Mexico.
They are not currently considered at risk of extinction. However, deforestation and other forms of habitat loss threaten the species.
8. White Holland Turkeys
White Holland are a type of domesticated turkey. The White Holland is a light-bodied bird with pure white plumage. It was developed in the late 1800s in the United States from crosses of various European turkey breeds and was later exported to Europe. It is prized for its white plumage, which makes it an attractive bird for holiday celebrations and other special occasions.
What Are Slate Turkeys?
They are a rare breed that has a grayish-blue coloring. They are sometimes called blue turkeys. They are not commonly found in the United States but can be purchased from specialty breeders.
Slate turkeys are larger than most other =breeds and have a leaner body type. Their meat is said to be more flavorful.
7 Types of Heritage Turkeys
heritage turkey breeds are a type of poultry bred for specific characteristics that make it well-suited for certain tasks, such as egg or meat production.
They are typically classified into two categories: those used for egg production and meat production.
The most common heritage breeds include the American Bronze, the Beltsville Small White, the Bourbon Red, the Jersey Buff, the Narragansett, the Standard Bronze, and the Turkey Red.
Heritage birds are typically bred in small flocks by farmers who focus on raising a limited number of high-quality animals. These farmers often use traditional breeding methods, such as selecting birds that best display the desired traits and then allowing them to mate naturally. This ensures that the resulting offspring will inherit the favorable characteristics of their parents.
The term “heritage turkey” refers to one raised using traditional methods. This means that the bird can roam freely and forage for its food rather than being confined to a small space and fed a diet of pellets. These turkeys typically have a more robust flavor than commercially-raised.
Heritage turkeys are becoming increasingly popular as consumers become more interested in where their food comes from and how it was raised. These birds are often seen as more flavorful and humanely raised than their commercially-raised counterparts. However, they can be more expensive than commercially-raised ones, so it is important to research before purchasing.
When purchasing a heritage, look for one that has been raised on a small farm using traditional methods. They will typically have a more robust flavor and be more humanely raised than their commercially-raised counterparts. However, they may be more expensive than commercially-raised turkeys, so it is important to research before making a purchase.
1. American Bronze Heritage Turkeys
American Bronze Heritage is a domesticated turkey breed developed in the United States from a cross of two breeds, the Narragansett and the Eastern. The American Bronze is the most popular breed for meat production in North America.
The American Bronze has dark brown plumage with bronze-tipped feathers. The breast meat is white and lean, making it a popular choice for consumers seeking healthy, low-fat poultry.
They are native to the eastern United States. It was developed as a commercial meat bird in the early 20th century and became the dominant turkey breed in North America by the mid-20th century. Today, they are raised primarily for meat production, although they are also kept as pets and show birds.
The American Bronze is a large turkey, typically weighing between 15 and 20 pounds (6.8 and 9.1 kg). It has a long body and relatively long legs. The skin \is yellowish-white, with a pinkish tinge in some light conditions.
In the wild, they eat various foods, including seeds, fruits, insects, small animals, and even carrion. In captivity, they are typically fed a diet of pellets or grain supplemented with vegetables and occasional treats such as table scraps or live insects.
The American Bronze turkey's meat is considered high quality, with a leaner texture than other domesticated breeds.
2. Beltsville Small White Turkeys
Beltsville Small White is a heritage breed of turkey. It was developed in the early twentieth century by the USDA's Poultry Improvement Program at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Maryland. This turkey was created by crossing three breeds: the White Holland, the Standard Bronze, and the Red Bourbon.
The Beltsville Small White is smaller than the average commercial turkey. It typically weighs between 10 and 12 pounds, making it an ideal size for smaller families or those who don't want leftovers. The breed is known for its white plumage and pinkish-white skin.
The Beltsville Small White is a heritage breed, meaning it is an older breed that was once common but is now rare. The breed was developed for small farms and homesteads, where it was valued for its smaller size and ability to forage for food.
The Beltsville Small White is an omnivorous bird, eating both plants and animals.
3. Bourbon Red Turkeys
Bourbon Red heritage is a domesticated turkey variety, developed in the early 1900s by crossing two varieties: the eastern wild turkey and the Narragansett turkey. The resulting breed was named after Bourbon County, Kentucky, where it was first bred.
The Bourbon Red is characterized by its large size, reddish-brown plumage, and white breast. It is a popular choice for meat production due to its high meat yield relative to its body size.
The Bourbon Red are typically raised on commercial farms. They are usually slaughtered at around 16 weeks of age. The average weight is 15-20 kg (35-45 lb).
The meat of the Bourbon Red turkey is dark, flavorful, and moist. It is considered to be of superior quality compared to the meat of other domesticated turkey varieties. The skin is also thin and delicate, making it ideal for use in recipes where the skin is removed before cooking.
4. Jersey Buff Turkeys
Jersey Buff heritage is a domesticated turkey variety originating from the United States. The breed was developed in New Jersey in the early 1900s and derives its name from the buff-colored plumage of the males. The Jersey Buff is a hardy bird well-suited to free-range or pasture-based production systems. However, they are not as widely available as other turkey varieties and may be difficult to find outside their home range in the northeastern United States.
The Jersey Buff is a large bird, with males weighing up to 30 pounds (13.6 kg) and females up to 20 pounds (9.1 kg). They have long bodies and relatively short legs. The male plumage is a buff color, as the name suggests, while the females are more of a pale brown. The birds are good flyers and have excellent foraging abilities.
The Jersey Buff is a heritage breed that is listed as "threatened" by the American Livestock Conservancy. This means fewer than 5,000 birds exist, and the breed is at risk of extinction. The primary threat to the Jersey Buff is crossbreeding with other varieties of turkey, which has led to a decline in numbers. However, there are efforts underway to conserve and promote the breed.
The Jersey Buff is well-suited to free-range or pasture-based production systems. They are good foragers and do not require a high level of input in terms of feed or housing.
5. Narragansett Turkeys
Narragansett heritage turkey is a large, stocky bird with black and brown white feathers. It is native to the Narragansett Bay region of Rhode Island and was brought to the area by English settlers in the early 1600s.
The turkey is named after the Native American tribe that inhabited the region then. The Narragansett tribe was nearly wiped out by disease and warfare in the late 1600s, but some members of the tribe escaped to Massachusetts, where they eventually assimilated into other tribes.
The Narragansett heritage is a descendant of the wild turkeys brought to North America by Spanish explorers in the early 1500s. They were then domesticated by Native Americans and became an important part of their diet. The Narragansett tribe was particularly known for their skill in hunting and preparing these birds.
The Narragansett heritage is a large bird weighing up to 30 pounds and can live up to 10 years. It has dark meat that is highly prized for its flavor. The bird is usually roasted or smoked, and the skin is often removed before eating.
When purchasing, it is important to look for one that has been raised without antibiotics or growth hormones. They are typically available from specialty meat markets or online retailers.
When cooking a Narragansett heritage turkey, it is important to cook it slowly and at a low temperature to prevent the dark meat from drying out. The bird can be roasted, grilled, or smoked.
6. Standard Bronze Turkeys
Standard Bronze heritage turkey is a popular choice for Thanksgiving dinner that is known for its rich flavor and juicy meat. They are raised on small family farms, where they can roam freely and eat a natural diet. This results in a higher quality product that is both delicious and nutritious.
These birds are descendants of the wild turkeys of North America and were first bred in the early 1600s. Standard Bronze is the most common type of heritage turkey.
These birds have dark brown feathers with bronze-colored tips. They are usually around 30 pounds when fully grown and have long bodies with relatively short legs. The males have longer tails and more prominent breast muscles than the females.
Heritage turkeys are different from commercial breeds in a few ways. First, they are allowed to grow to their full size, which can take up to two years.
They also have a more natural diet and are not given growth hormones or antibiotics. This results in a bird that is leaner and has darker meat. Finally, they are bred to have better flavor than commercial birds.
7. Turkey Reds
Turkey Red variety is one of the most popular heritage. It gets its name from the reddish hue of its feathers, which results from cross-breeding with Bourbon Red turkeys. These birds are known for their excellent flavor and lean meat. They also have a higher percentage of white meat than other varieties.
Today, Turkey Reds are still prized for their delicious taste. They are also considered a healthier option than many other types, as they are lower in fat and cholesterol.
Turkey FAQs 🦃
What Are Some Interesting Facts About Turkeys?
- It can fly at speeds up to 55 miles per hour!
- Males (toms) typically weigh between 18-24 pounds, while females (hens) usually weigh 8-12 pounds.
- Has excellent eyesight and can see in color. They also have very good hearing.
- They are social animals and typically live in flocks of 10-20 individuals. However, they can also be found alone or in pairs.
- Not shy about showing their emotions and can make over 30 different vocalizations!
- When they are excited or angry, they will often fan their tail feathers out to display their colorful patterns. This is known as “turkey trotting.”
- Wild turkeys are not the same as domesticated turkeys they are typically raised for food. Domestic turkeys have been bred to be much larger than their wild counterparts and cannot fly or mate independently.
How Can I Tell If a Wild Turkey is Male or Female?
The easiest way to sex a wild turkey is by looking at the tail feathers. Males have long, fan-like tails with colorful patterns, while females have shorter tails with more subdued colors.
You can also look at the head; males have brightly colored wattles and bare heads, while females usually have smaller wattles and are often covered in feathers. Finally, males are typically much larger than females; toms can weigh up to 24 pounds, while hens only average 8-12 pounds.
Are Wild Turkeys Dangerous?
While wild turkeys are not typically considered dangerous animals, they have occasionally been known to attack humans. This is usually only done to defend themselves or their young, but it is still best to exercise caution around these birds.
If you see a wild turkey acting aggressively, keeping your distance and contacting local wildlife authorities is best.
How Many Eggs Do Turkeys Lay?
Wild turkeys typically lay between 8-12 eggs at a time. The eggs are incubated by the female for about 28 days before they hatch.
How Long Do Turkeys Stay With Their Parents?
Wild turkey chicks will stay with their parents for the first 6-8 weeks of their lives. After that, they will typically strike out independently but may still associate with other flock members.