Find the best places to hunt Wild Turkey in Canada. Discover the Wild Turkey’s Physical Description, Range, Habitat, Food Source, Breeding Habits, and Status.  

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) Wild turkey, Meleagris gallopavo LC

Range Distribution and Habitat of the Wild Turkey

 Wild Turkey Range Map of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By:


In the years prior to 1909 the Wild Turkey was native to Southern Ontario and South-Eastern portions of Quebec. Due to loss of habitat and overhunting the last Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) was seen in eastern Canada in 1909. However, in 1984 274 turkeys were reintroduced to Ontario and this bird has had an explosion in Ontario with hunters in that province jumping on the bandwagon to hunt them.

The Wild Turkey in also present in a small portion of Southern Manitoba. The bird was never native and efforts for its existence are in due to the Wild Gobblers (Morden Game and Fish Association) when in 1958 it introduced 16 wild turkeys to the province near Miami, Manitoba. A turkey season began in that province in 1977 for residents only. Here too, the wild turkey is showing signs of growing in population and expanding its range.

Finally, British Columbia introduced non native turkeys in 1910 and is home to a small population of  4 to 5,000 birds (2004 estimate) in the East & West Kootenay and southeast Okanagan regions.

Planning a wild turkey hunt can be a great experience and hunting opportunities for this bird exist in the Provinces or British Columbia, Manitoba (Resident Only), Ontario, and Quebec (Resident Only).

When I took my turkey course I was told that Wild Turkeys will thrive anywhere Whitetails do (climate permitting) and that for the most part are in competition with the Whitetails for some of those food resources.

When searching for the wild turkey hardwood forests of hickory, beech, maple, cherry, oak, yellow birch, white and red pine are a good choice. Also, coniferous forests of white pine, red pine, hemlock and white cedar are a good bet. With in those forests groupings you should look for scattered openings (10 to 25% of the forest should be open) like agricultural fields, orchards, and marshes. Also, statistically these openings should be no more than 1 to 2 miles apart. The wild turkey requires these openings for travelling in and to see predators coming. For the hunter, these are the best spots to set up and call.

Finally, the wild turkey requires a good supply of water for drinking from daily. I have also found that this species likes to roost at night on branches that are over water. So, get out your topographical map and find your Turkey Central.

Description of Wild Turkey:

Wild Turkey

Upland game wid turkey

Wild Turkey - Jude - Flickr


The Wild Turkey is a Non-Migrating Galiforme and is the heaviest member of that family.

Galiformes areheavy-bodied ground-feeding birds that includes the turkey, grouse, chicken, New World quail, ptarmigan, partridge, and pheasant.[A]

There are differences between male and female members of the species and the most prominent feature is that of its beard that is located on its chest. The Beard is a bunch of long coarse hairs that are approximately 9.1 inches (23.0 cm) long growing from the center of its breast. Males have this beard and only 10 to 20% of hens have a shorter beard. That is why hunting regulations often cite the fact that you can take Bearded Turkeys Only as they want to take only Toms and leave the hens for breeding stock.

Following the beard and this is what most hunters look for on the gobbler is the head. Here they are looking for a red throat and a large featherless red head. It will also have red coloured outgrowths of skin on its throat, neck and skin. These outgrowths often referred to as caruncles will often swell with blood and become an even brighter red as the male becomes excited. Adding to the caruncles is a flap of flesh over its bill (called a snood) that too fills with blood as it gets excited.

Male members are much larger in size than females and a fan-shaped tail that is iconic to its mating display. It also has shiny bronze coloured wings and portions of his feathers will have iridescent areas of red, purple, green, copper, bronze, and gold. 

Jakes (juvenile male turkeys) are differentiated from adult males by observing its beard and tail feathers. The beard on a Jake is shorter and the centre portion of the Jake’s fan tail has longer feathers in the centre portion of the fan where as the adult Tom has uniform length feathers.

A little subtler is the fact that both male and female turkeys have three toes facing forward and one facing rearward. However, the male has a fourth toe higher up its leg that is referred to as a spur that can grow to 1.25 inches (3.2 cm) long and longer legs.

For both males and females alike, the wild turkey has short rounded wings, and long legs are reddish-yellow to grayish-green in colour. The overall colour of their body is black or a very dark colour that sometimes appears to be a greyish brown colour with a copper coloured hue. But the hen’s feathers as a whole will be a duller brown or gray colour and it will have feathers on its neck.

The weight of a turkey will vary according to the time of year and available food resources. In general, Toms will have a body mass of 15 to 24.25 lbs. (6.8 to 11 kg). in comparison to the female’s 7.9 to 11.9 lbs (3.6 to 5.4 kg.). However, it should be noted that heavier birds are out there as the record is sitting at 37.1 lb. and there are many records of 30 lb+ birds in the book as well. (National Wild Turkey Federation)

The overall length of a Tom is 39 to 49 inches (100 to 125 cm) long while a hen has a length of 30 to 37 inches (76 to 95 cm.). Then the rest of the dimension are about the same with them both having a wingspan of 49 to 56 inches (125 to 144 cm.), a wing chord of 7.9 to 8.4 inches (20 to 21.4 cm.), bill length of .79 to 1.26 inches (2 to 3.2 cm.) and a tail that is 9.6 to 19.9 inches (24.5 to 50.5 cm.) long.

Wild turkeys are not like domestic turkeys in that despite their great body mass they are quite capable of flight. Flights are normally low to the ground and generally less than a ¼ mile (400 m.).

The wild turkey has a distinctive “gobble” that is used to attract hens and warning off Toms. Included in its communications is the strut and fanning display that Toms use to attract a hen.

The mean life expectancy for a wild turkey is estimated to be only 1.3 to 1.6 years of age but a wild turkey that was 13 years of age has been recorded.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of the Wild Turkey:

The Wild Turkey is an omnivore that can be found primarily early in the morning and late in the evening foraging on the ground. Here you will find it searching for fruit, seeds, grains, acorns, nuts, hazel nuts, chestnuts, hickory nuts, pine seeds as well as buds, leaves, fern fronds and young blades of grass. It will also consume berries, tubers, roots and ground insects like spiders, grasshoppers, millipedes. They will also consume frogs, lizards, salamanders, snails, toads, and snakes with 10% of its diet coming from this category. Occasionally it will forage for fruit or buds in a shrub or tree.

Finally I use to live in the area of Southern Ontario where it was not uncommon to see groups of 25 to 50 wild turkeys in the fields feeding.

Breeding and Reproduction of the Wild Turkey:

Breeding season for Wild Turkeys occurs once a year and here in Canada is mainly in the month of April. At this time, you will find males searching for as many females as they can in order to breed them. This relationship is a polygamous one. The male wild turkey will put quite a display for any potential female by making his feathers stand on end, fanning out his tail feathers, dragging his wings and strutting his stuff.

It is common for males to travel in bachelor groups and it is normally the most dominant member of the group that is gobbling, drumming/booming, spitting and strutting his stuff in order to indicate its social dominance and to attract a female. Studies have shown that these bachelor groups are likely to be related and that they stand a better chance of fathering an egg than those male that are solitary in nature.

The act of mating is a rough one, watching videos you can see that the female initiates the sequence by laying on the ground. Then the Tom climbs on her back and for about 5 minutes will walk on her back. The actual act of mating takes only about 3 or 4 seconds and occurs at the end of him walking on her back.

When mating is complete the male has nothing to do with the rearing process. However, the female will look for nest site where she will scrape out a shallow dirt depression surrounded by dense brush, vines, tangles, deep grass, or fallen tree tops. She will then lay her clutch of 10–14 eggs at a rate of about one per day. It then takes her 25 to 31 days to incubate the eggs. The young turkeys (called poults) are born in an advanced state and are able to fend for themselves almost immediately. Because of this the poults leave the nest in about 12 to 24 hours after hatching.

The hen will cover her chicks at night and keep them warm for about 2 weeks while the poults get most of their early protein in the form of insects. The hen will also protect her hatchlings from perceived predators. This mother bond tends to hold intact into the fall when males leave the group. Females of the group will generally stay with their maternal mother until the spring.

Wild turkeys are capable of breeding at about 10 months of age but the likely hood of a male breeding in its first year are close to zero as it does not have the size to displace a mature Tom.

Status of Wild Turkey:

 The status of the Wild Turkey was reviewed in 2012 by Birdlife International and was assessed to be one of Least Concern. Justification for that listing comes from its large range and the fact that its population appears to on the rise.

Predation of adult turkeys are obviously humans but bobcats, coyotes, golden eagles, great horned owls, mountain lions, and raccoons should be added to that list.

Predation of turkey eggs and chicks include predators like other birds like the crow, hawk, magpie, and raven. Land based predators would include, bobcats, chipmunks, grey and red foxes, dogs, mink, opossums, raccoons, rodents, striped and spotted skunks, snakes, squirrels, weasels, and woodchucks.


© Encyclopedia of Life – Source: 1049266/details

© Smithsonian Institution - Supplier: Robert Costello

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors - Source: Animal Diversity Web

© NatureServe - Source: NatureServe 

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors - Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Source: US Forest Service Fire Effects Information Service

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources - Source: IUCN 

© Joao Pedro de Magalhaes - Source: AnAge


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