Ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata) male in Guatamala. Image: Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

*Check your answers for fun facts about turkeys!

Bonus question: Are turkeys endangered?

True or False: The wild turkey of North America (Meleagris gallopavo) is an endangered species.

Answer: It depends what time period you are talking about. Before the Europeans got to North America there were many millions of turkeys across the continent. By the 1930s humans had hunted down most of the wild turkeys and cut down much of their wooded habitat for agriculture and other uses. Only tens of thousands of wild turkeys remained. Imagine New York City being smooshed down to the size of a small city; that is what happened to wild turkeys.

As people moved to cities and abandoned some agricultural areas, woodland started to grow back across North America. Then, much more turkey habitat became available. Wild turkey populations were established across their former range. There are now as many as 6 million wild turkeys across North America. Wild turkeys are a conservation success story!

By David Brown