Wild Turkey Hunting Network
NWTF Turkey Facts: Wildly Different: Eastern Subspecies

Credit: Tom Evans/National Wild 
Turkey Federation
Eastern Wild Turkey
(Meleagris gallopavo silvestris)

The eastern wild turkey is the most widely distributed, abundant and hunted turkey subspecies of the five distinct subspecies found in the United States. It inhabits roughly the eastern half of the country. The eastern wild turkey is found in the hardwood and mixed forests from New England and southern Canada to northern Florida and west to Texas, Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota. It has also been successfully transplanted in states outside of its original range including: California, Oregon and Washington.

L.J.P. Vieillot first described and named the eastern subspecies in 1817 using the word silvestris, meaning "forest" turkey.

Since the eastern wild turkey ranges the farthest north, individuals can also grow to be among the largest of any of the subspecies. The adult male, called a gobbler or tom, may measure up to 4 feet tall at maturity and weigh more than 20 pounds. Its upper tail coverts, which cover the base of the long tail feathers, are tipped with chestnut brown and tail tips with dark buff or chocolate brown. In contrast, the breast feathers are tipped in black. Other body feathers are characterized by rich, metallic, copper/bronze iridescence.

The primary wing feathers have white and black bars that extend from the outer edge of each all the way to the shaft. Secondary wing feathers have prominent white bars and are edged in white, producing a whitish triangular area on each side of the back when the wings are folded on the back.

A mature female, called a hen, may be nearly as tall but is usually lighter, weighing between 8 and 12 pounds. Females are similar in color to the males but more brown, and the metallic reflections are less brilliant. Feathers of the hen's breast, flanks and sides are tipped with brown rather than the black and white tips of the male.


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