There are six different turkey species out there, all found in the Western Hemisphere. Whether you’re bird watching or hunting, you need to know a little about each species and where to look for them if you plan to spot one.
That’s why we broke down each of the six species here and gave you enough information to track one down and spot them in the wild!
The 6 Types of Turkeys
1. Eastern Wild Turkey
The Eastern wild turkey is by far the most populous turkey species on the planet. There are over 5 million birds, and they have a wide range that covers all of the Eastern States and many provinces in Canada.
These birds have brown tail feathers with chestnut brown tips, and they have white and black bars along their wings. They’re notoriously loud gobblers and have long beards.
Eastern wild turkeys can grow up to 4 feet tall, and males can weigh as much as 30 pounds! Females are a bit smaller, maxing out at 12 pounds.
2. Osceola Wild Turkey
While the Osceola wild turkey doesn’t have an exceptionally large range, where they do roam, they do so in force.
Osceola wild turkeys only live on the Florida peninsula, but in that area, there are roughly 100,000 birds. Osceola wild turkeys are smaller than Eastern wild turkeys, with males maxing out at 20 pounds.
They have noticeably fewer white bands than the Eastern wild turkey, and they have black wings, with dark-brown tips on their tail feathers.
Finally, these birds have long legs, strong gobbles, and short beards. They’re extremely tough to hunt, despite their large population in such a small area.
3. Rio Grande Wild Turkey
As the name implies, you can spot Rio Grande wild turkeys in most Western and Southern states. They have large populations in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Mexico.
Rio Grande wild turkeys are about the same size as the Osceola wild turkey, with males maxing out at 20 pounds. Rio Grande wild turkeys have equal amounts of black and white barring on their wings, and the tips on their tail feathers are tan instead of a darker brown.
Their body feathers often have a green hue, making them one of the most beautiful wild turkeys out there. Currently, their population is just over 1 million birds, so there’s no shortage of Rio Grande wild turkeys!
4. Merriam’s Wild Turkey
If you head out west to the Rocky Mountains and spot a turkey, there’s a good chance that you’re looking at a Merriam’s wild turkey. A Merriam’s wild turkey has white-tipped tail feathers and white lower back feathers, setting them apart from other wild turkeys.
Not only do they roam the Rock Mountains, but you can also find them in Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, and parts of New Mexico.
These turkeys are similar in size to Eastern wild turkeys, with males weighing close to 30 pounds. However, they don’t gobble that loud, and their beards are extremely short. Currently, there are just under 350,000 of these birds in the wild.
Related Read: What Do Turkeys Eat in the Wild and as Pets?
5. Gould’s Wild Turkey
The only turkey that you can find in the United States but can’t hunt is Gould’s wild turkey. These turkeys are sparse in numbers, and you can only find them in Arizona, New Mexico, and Northern Mexico.
Like Eastern wild turkeys, they are larger, with males getting up to 30 pounds. Gould’s wild turkeys have long legs, like the Osceola wild turkey, but they have white-tipped tails and back feathers.
The easiest way to distinguish these birds from Merriam’s wild turkeys is to look at their legs. Gould’s wild turkeys have large legs, where Merriam’s wild turkey have skinny legs.
Finally, Gould’s wild turkeys have cooper and greenish-gold feathers throughout their body, giving them a lighter overall appearance than most turkeys.
If you’re hunting turkeys in Arizona, New Mexico, or Northern Mexico, you need to learn to identify these birds, so you don’t accidentally shoot one.
6. Ocellated Wild Turkey
The ocellated wild turkey is undoubtedly an outlier among wild turkeys. They only live in a 50,000-square-mile area in southern Mexico, northern Belize, and northern Guatemala.
They have rainbow feathers with gray tail feathers that have blue and gold tips. Their wings are white and black, and they have high-pitched gobbles and produce a hollow drumming sound. Moreover, these birds lack beards, and they’re much smaller than their northern relatives.
Males max out at 12 pounds, which is the size of every other subspecies’ female. They’re extremely different than other turkey subspecies, but it’s part of the reason that spotting one in the wild is such a treat.
You might also be interested in: Male vs Female Turkeys: How to Tell the Difference
If you’re heading out for a hunt, we recommend brushing up on these different subspecies. Whether you’re simply looking to impress your hunting buddies or don’t want to shoot the wrong bird, having a solid understanding of what’s out there and what you’re hunting is always a great place to start!
Featured Image Credit: create219, Pixabay