Wild Turkey

From Ohio History Central
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Scientific Name: Meleagris gallopavo
Habitat: Mature forests
Adult Weight: average 17 lbs. male; 11 lbs. female
Adult Body Length: 42 - 48 inches male; 32 - 38 inches female
Nesting Period: April - June
Broods Per Year: 1
Clutch Size: average 12
Life Expectancy: 2 - 3 years
Foods: acorns, beechnuts, dogwood fruit, wild grapes, insects, and leaves and fruit from many plants.


In the eighteenth-century Benjamin Franklin campaigned to have the wild turkey as the national symbol of the United States. He lost his battle, but the turkey won its battle of survival in Ohio to become a recovered species.



Wild turkeys were used extensively by Native Americans for food and their feathers were used for ornamentation.


Early settlers commonly saw flocks of 30-50 turkeys in the winter. As more people moved permanently to the state, unrestricted hunting, and the fact that they were a favorite food, caused populations to decline.

19th Century

By 1832, no turkeys could be found near Mansfield. Local extirpation had occurred through most of Ohio counties by the 1850s. No attempts were made to stop their disappearance.

20th Century

By 1904, turkeys were extirpated from Ohio. In the late 1930s - early 1940s, many farms in southeastern Ohio were abandoned, allowing forests to regrow and turkeys to return.

From 1956 to 1963, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources tried, unsuccessfully, to introduce turkeys that had been hand raised. However, as natural populations increased, many were moved to other areas of the state. Today they live in twenty-two Ohio counties.

See Also


  1. Peterjohn, John. The Birds of Ohio; Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN; 1989.