Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Rio Grande Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo intermedia)

Physical Description
The Rio Grande turkey, at full maturity, is approximately four feet tall and has disproportionately long legs. It is pale and copper colored having tail feathers and tail/rump coverts (short feathers located at the base of the tail) tipped with a yellowish buff. An alternating color pattern includes tan feathers with medium or dark brown buffed tips. The Rio Grande’s color is consistently lighter than the Eastern or Florida bird, but is darker than the same feathers in the Merriam or Gould subspecies. Feathers of the hen breast, sides and flanks are tipped with pale, pinkish buff.

Average Weight Range
Adult Rio Grande turkey weigh eight to over 20 pounds.

Breeding occurs during the spring and summer months (May through August). The increase of spring daylight hours 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 a turkey ages, plant matter becomes the primary food source and about 90 percent of the mature turkey’s diet includes the green foliage of grasses, vines, forbs, acorns, buds, seeds and various fruits.

The Rio Grande turkey was originally found in the southern Great Plains, western Texas and northeast Mexico. They have expanded their range and been introduced into Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Utah, South Dakota, and California.

The Rio Grande utilizes brushy areas near streams and rivers or mesquite, pine, and scrub oak forests. They prefer more open country than the wooded areas preferred by eastern wild turkeys.

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.”

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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