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Welcome to BNA Online, the leading source of life history information for North American breeding birds. This free, courtesy preview is just the first of 14 articles that provide detailed life history information including Distribution, Migration, Habitat, Food Habits, Sounds, Behavior and Breeding. Written by acknowledged experts on each species, there is also a comprehensive bibliography of published research on the species.
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This species account is dedicated in honor of Joe Williams, member of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Administrative Board.
The Wild Turkey, endemic in North America, is found from southern Canada south through the 48 contiguous states and along the Sierras to central Mexico. Native Americans, and later the Europeans who populated North America, sought these large birds for food. This is a non-migratory species, socially complex, with an array of vocal signals. A strong short-distance flier, it roosts in trees at night but spends most daylight hours on the ground. A game bird noted for its elusiveness and as a table delicacy, it has been reestablished by modern game management in and beyond its pre-Columbian range. Much literature in the fields of game biology and poultry science is available on this species, and human-imprinted poults and radiotelemetry have greatly increased our understanding of its behavior.
This is the only bird in the Western Hemisphere to receive worldwide importance through domestication. As a North American native, the domestic turkey of Mexico became established over much of the world traveled by Europeans. It even returned to America with English colonists of the Atlantic seaboard. Growth in turkey farms since then has been tremendous; by 1989, 260 million domestic turkeys were produced for U.S. markets, creating gross income of 2.24 billion dollars for that year alone. There are six subspecies of the Wild Turkey, four well marked; the nominate subspecies is the least known.