Wild Turkey Hunting Network
NWTF Turkey Facts: Wildly Different: Rio Grande Subspecies

Credit: Albert Lavallee/National Wild Turkey Federation
Rio Grande Wild Turkey 
(Meleagris gallopavo silvestris)
The Rio Grande wild turkey is native to the central plains states and got its common name from the area in which it is found - the life giving water supply which borders the brushy scrub, arid country of the southern Great Plains, western Texas and northeastern Mexico. This subspecies was first described by George B. Sennett in 1879 who said it was intermediate in appearance between the eastern and western subspecies, hence its scientific name.

It is similar in general appearance to the other subspecies of the wild turkey and similar in body size to the Florida Turkey, about 4 feet tall, but with disproportionately long legs. The Rio Grande turkeys are comparatively pale and copper colored. They are distinguished from the eastern and Florida subspecies by having tail feathers and tail/rump coverts tipped with yellowish-buff or tan color rather than medium or dark brown. Although there has been more variation in the shade of buff/brown in the tail feathers among Rio specimens, the color is consistently lighter than in the eastern or Florida birds and darker than the same feathers in the Merriam's or Gould's subspecies.

Adult females, called hens, are smaller in size compared to the males, called gobblers, and similar in color but duller. Hens average 8 to 12 pounds while gobblers may weigh around 20 pounds at maturity. Feathers of the breast, sides and flanks are tipped with pale pinkish buff.

The Rio inhabits brush areas near streams and rivers or mesquite, pine and scrub oak forests. It may be found up to 6,000 feet elevation and generally favors country that is more open than the wooded habitat favored by its eastern cousins. The Rio Grande is considered gregarious and, nomadic in some areas, having distinct summer and winter ranges. They may form large flocks of several hundred birds during the winter period. It has been known to travel distances of 10 or more miles from traditional winter roost sites to its nesting areas.

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