Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Of the three subspecies in Texas, which one is most numerous?
A. The Rio Grande wild turkey is the most numerous and has the widest range of the three subspecies in Texas. Only a small pocket of Merriam’s wild turkeys can be found in deep western Texas near the New Mexico border. Eastern wild turkeys are making a rebound now, with population reintroductions. Historically, the range of eastern birds was generally from the Trinity River and eastward.
Q. Is it true that only toms (males) have beards?
A. Both toms (males) and hens (females) can have beards. However, the occurrence of bears on female is not common. Beards are modified feathers that extend from the body about where the neck meets the breast. Beards on hens are usually much shorter and more sparse that those on toms.
Q. Do turkey hens nest in trees?
A. No. Turkey hens nest on the ground instead of in trees. Nest sites vary, and usually consist of a small bowl scraped from the ground and are about the size of large dinner plate. Clutch size ranges from 8-16 eggs, but the average size consists of 10 eggs. Incubation starts when the last egg is deposited in the nest and continues for about 28 days.
Q. How important is water to wild turkeys?
A. Wild turkeys obtain water in three forms—free water, metabolic water and performed water. Free water (drinking water) is surface water taken from ponds, creeks, water troughs and similar sources. Metabolic water is derived when foods are broken down (digested) into their chemical components. Performed water is liquid that is bound within the food itself (e.g., succulent leaves). Turkeys will drink from standing water sources, but hens and poults that are feeding on succulent plants and insects may derive adequate water from food items.
Q. What do turkeys eat?
A. It is not surprising to find that the diets of Rio Grande wild turkeys are broad, given their widespread distribution across Texas and the U.S. Green foliage and seeds from grasses and forbs (weeds), mast, and animal matter are all important components in the diets of these birds.