Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Osceola/Florida Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo osceola)

Physical Description
The Florida wild turkey is smaller and darker in color than the eastern wild turkey and also has less white veining in the wing quills. The white bars in the primary feathers are narrow, irregular, broken and do not extend all the way to the feather shaft, while secondary wing feathers are a darker brown. The pattern does not form triangular patches as does the Eastern’s feathers. The dark colors of the tail coverts (smaller feathers at the base of the tail) and the brown-tipped large tail feathers resemble those of the Eastern.

Average Weight Range
Adult Florida wild turkeys weigh six to over 16 pounds.

The breeding cycle for the Florida wild is slightly earlier than the eastern wild, usually in February. However, turkeys can start gobbling as early as January in southern parts of Florida. Egg laying starts in April, and hatching usually occurs in May. 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 10 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 the needed protein for rapid 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 Florida bird is indigenous to the Florida peninsula.

The Florida turkey inhabits the Florida swamplands and prefers a moist, marshy environment.

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 calls to the turkey or to induce gobblers to 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.

Hens produce droppings in shapes like a mound, and the gobbler’s droppings are in a straight line or resemble the letter “J.”

Named for the famous Seminole Chief Osceola, who led a war against Americans in 1835.

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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