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Le dindon sauvage

The wild turkey

This Wildlife Portrait is made possible thanks to the participation of the Quebec Wildlife Foundation.


A large gallinaceous

The wild turkey is a robust and massive bird. It is part of the same family as the Ruffed Grouse and the Spruce Grouse, that of the gallinaceae. Moreover, when we look more closely, we notice in the turkey some traits common to these birds:

  • It has legs adapted to scratch the ground for food.
  • It has short, round wings facilitating short, rapid flights in the forest.
  • It has a well-developed tail adapted to these flight conditions.
  • It has a strong, short bill for pecking on the ground.


    A remarkable sexual dimorphism

    In the wild turkey, it is possible to distinguish the male and the female. They are said to exhibit sexual dimorphism. Aside from size, the male being much larger than the female, there are characteristics that differentiate them, some of which are more apparent in spring during the breeding period.

    • The male's feather pattern demonstrates a metallic shimmer called iridescence, composed of various hues of red, green, copper, bronze and gold.
    • Its head and neck are relatively featherless and there are protrusions of reddish skin called wattles.
    • The coloring of its head is blue and red, and it has a white crown.
    • It also has a snood, a projection that looks like a soft finger and which hangs along its forehead and beak. When the turkey is in a state of alert, the snood shrinks and stiffens at the back of the bill, taking on the appearance of a fleshy bump.
    • It has a "beard", a tuft of stiff keratinous filaments, emerging from the chest, which can reach several centimeters.
    • At the base of its legs, it has dewclaws, sharp claws that it uses against its predators.


      Eyes all around the head

      If it is distinguished by its singular appearance, the wild turkey is also remarkable for its excellent eyesight and very keen hearing. Because it feeds on the ground, it is likely to be preyed upon by many animals. This is why, during its evolution, it acquired extremely keen eyesight in order to face this threat. Its eyes, located on each side of its head, give it a 300 degree field of vision. He has eyes almost all the way around his head! His visual acuity allows him to detect imperceptible movements or the slightest anomalies around him.


      Very specific housing needs

      As with all animals, the habitat chosen by the turkey will be the one that provides it with the best conditions for feeding, protection and reproduction. Since it feeds on fruits such as those of oak, beech, linden, and ash as well as those of dogwood, cherry and crabapple and various shrubs, its preferred habitats are large mature forests composed of deciduous and pine trees, interspersed with open areas or clearings.


      The presence of pine trees is essential since it is in the high branches of these trees that it will roost to spend the night.


      An evolving geographical distribution

      The wild turkey is found almost everywhere in the United States. In Quebec, it is found everywhere south of the St. Lawrence River, from the west of the Chaudière-Appalaches region to Montérégie, where populations are densest.


      North of the river, it is found in the Outaouais and in the St. Lawrence plains with a growing presence. It can be found in the regions of Capitale-Nationale, Mauricie, Lanaudière and Laurentides, places offering a mosaic of agricultural and forest environments.


      A spectacular reproduction

      The mating period is initiated by the increase in the photoperiod in spring. This increased exposure to light stimulates specific endocrine glands that trigger morphological changes and reproductive behaviors.


      This begins in April and can continue until the end of May. The male is polygamous and his reproductive behaviors are spectacular. Given that several females can be impregnated by a single male, hunting, which takes place on the latter, still allows populations to grow.


      Ten to twelve eggs will be laid, they will hatch 26 to 28 days later.


      Did you know?

      • The turkey's cry is called the gobble.
      • It can weigh up to 10kg, the equivalent of more than 300 sparrows or 20 ruffedgrouse.
      • In alert position, it can reach one meter tall.
      • Between 2003 and 2013, FédéCP led a program which enabled the relocation of 634 turkeys in the Centre-du-Québec, Mauricie and Outaouais regions.
      • Wild turkey hunting has been permitted since 2008 in Quebec.
      • The annual survival of turkeys is closely linked to the depth of accumulated snow. When the snow layer is too thick, this prevents it feeding adequately on the ground.


      Watch the video “Wild turkey hunting” to discover the link between the presence of wild turkeys in Quebec and hunters.

      (Video in french only)

      La chasse au dindon sauvage from FédéCP on Vimeo.


      Do you want to start wild turkey hunting this spring? There is still time to register for the online turkey hunting course via the dindonsauvage site.

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