Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata)

Physical Description
The ocellated species is easily distinguished from the other North American subspecies primarily because its legs are shorter and thinner than other species. Tail feathers are bluish gray with a well-defined eye-shaped blue bronze colored spot near the end followed by a bright gold tip. The name is derived from the resemblance of the tail feathers’ spots to an eye (oculus). Both sexes have a blue colored head and neck with distinctive orange-to-red, warty, carnucle-like growths called nodules. These growths are more prominent on gobblers. The head of the male also has a fleshy blue crown behind the snood, which has nodules similar to those on the neck. The bird also has a distinct eye ring of bright red colored skin especially visible on the tom during breeding season. Neither toms nor hens of this species have beards, and breast feathers do not differ between males and females.

Average Weight Range
Adult ocellated turkeys weigh from six to 12 pounds.

Breeding occurs during the spring and summer months (May through August). The increase of daylight hours in spring triggers hormonal changes. Gobbling is used to attract receptive females for mating in late February to early March. Males exhibit both gobbling and strutting to attract females. Gobbling attracts the hen to the male, who then courts the female by strutting. If the gobbler is successful, the female will crouch to signal the male to begin copulation. The first peak time for gobbling occurs at the beginning of breeding season when gobblers are searching for hens. The second peak begins a few weeks later, when most hens begin incubation. Gobblers usually mate with several hens, and it is generally the adult males who do most of the mating. Hens lay anywhere from 8 to 12 eggs per clutch, averaging about 28 days for incubation.

Food Usage/Selection
Wild turkeys are omnivores, eating a variety of plant and animal matter wherever and whenever available. Poults, or young turkey, eat large quantities of insects and other animal matter to get needed protein for development. As turkeys age, plant matter becomes the primary food source with about 90 percent of the mature turkey’s diet including the green foliage of grasses, vines, forbs, acorns, buds, seeds and various fruits.

The Ocellated turkey inhabits Central America and parts of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

The ocellated turkey exists only in a 50,000 square mile area in the Yucatan peninsula range in southeastern Mexico including the states of Quintana Roo, Compeche, Peten, and Yucatan, also, southern Tabasco and northeastern Chiapas. It prefers brushy areas near streams and rivers or mesquite, pine, and scrub forests

Common Hunting Methods
The shotgun, bow and arrow, and black powder are all used to hunt turkey. To attract turkeys, hunters use a wide range of turkey calls to lure the turkey or to induce gobblers to a fight. Calling has become so popular that contests are held each year so experts and novices alike can fine-tune their skills.

Hunting Challenges/Values
With their excellent eyesight and well-developed sense of hearing, the turkey can sometimes outsmart decoys used by hunters as they become more and more sensitized to their presence. Wild turkeys are very good to eat and can be smoked, fried or baked. Many hunters proudly display their colorful capes, beards or full-bodied mounts.

Interesting Tidbits
Turkeys will answer thunder from an approaching storm with calls of their own.
Turkey hunting is one of the most popular forms of hunting.
Hens produce droppings in shapes like a mound, and the gobbler’s droppings are in a straight line or resemble the letter “J.”
It is also known by these names, depending on its Central America location: pavo, pavo ocelado, or the Mayan Indian ucutz il chican.

Read about other Turkey subspecies:
Eastern Wild Turkey
Gould's Turkey
Merriam's Turkey
Ocellated Turkey
Osceola/Florida Turkey
Rio Grande Turkey

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