Eastern wild turkey - Return of the non-native

Object of the Month: 11/2006

What is it?:

wild turkey


Where was it collected:

Collected by SMM May 2004
Houston County, extreme SE Minn.


wild turkey
wild turkey

Science Museum researcher Dick Oehlenschlager bagged this wild turkey in southeast Minnesota in 2004. Wild turkeys are probably not native to Minnesota—there is little evidence to positively show they lived here before 1964, when the DNR introduced them to our forests.

Though it looks very different, the wild turkey is the ancestor of the domestic turkey on your Thanksgiving table. Small and sleek, wild turkeys average about 18 pounds. Feathers on the male shine an iridescent red, green, copper, bronze and gold. Females feathers are a duller brown and gray color.

Male wild turkeys sport two fleshy growths on their heads—a wattle hanging under the beak, and a snood draping over the top. They sport fine, hair-like feathers on their head and neck. The skin—blue, white and red—changes color during mating displays. The female is smaller and much less colorful. Can you tell whether this specimen is male or female?