© 2024 University of Missouri - KBIA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Discover Nature: Wild Turkeys

A wild turkey struts through green grass in spring at the edge of a wooded area.
A wild turkey struts through a grassy field edge. Listen for adult male wild turkeys gobbling in the woods this week as they try to attract mates.

This week on Discover Nature, listen for wild turkeys gobbling in Missouri woods and grasslands.

This popular gamebird, once a contender for our national bird, makes many other vocal sounds, as well, often described as purring, yelping, and putting.

Adult males, called Toms, are large and dark, with a bare, red, white, and blue head, long legs, and bronzy feathers. Males and some females have a tuft of hair-like bristles, called a beard, in the middle of the breast. Females are smaller and less iridescent than males.

In the spring, males begin gobbling and strutting, spreading their tails like a peacock to attract mates. After mating, females care for their young alone, creating shallow nests on the ground.

In the 1950s, Missouri’s wild turkey population reached an all-time low, with fewer than 2,500 birds in only 14 Missouri counties. Through decades of dedicated conservation efforts, Missouri now boasts an estimated wild turkey population of more than 300,000 statewide.

Learn more about wild turkeys, listen to recordings of their vocalizations, and find places to see them in the wild with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide.

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Related Content