Wild turkey
Meleagris gallopavo
ITIS Species Code:   176136         NatureServ Element Code:   ABNLC14010
NatureServe Global Rank: 
NatureServe State (NC) Rank: 
Federal Status: 
NC State Status: 
Southern Blue Ridge:  19 Southern Piedmont:  18 South Atl. Coastal Plain:  17
Land Unit

US Fish & Wildlife Service
US Forest Service
US National Park Service
US Department of Defense
NC State Parks
NC University System
NC Wildlife Res. Com.
NC Forest Service
NC Div. of Coastal Mgmt.
Local Governments
Non-Governmental Org.
Other Public Lands
Private Lands

GAP Status 1-2
All Protected Lands




% of Dist. on
Prot. Lands

4.8 %
51.0 %
9.3 %
12.7 %
4.0 %
2.3 %
11.1 %
1.3 %
0.2 %
1.8 %
1.8 %
0.2 %
0.0 %

36.7 %
% of Dist. on
All Lands

0.6 %
6.8 %
1.3 %
1.7 %
0.5 %
0.3 %
1.5 %
0.2 %
< 0.1 %
0.2 %
0.3 %
< 0.1 %
86.6 %

4.9 %
Was once a permanent resident throughout the state, but is now scattered in former range where suitable habitat exists (Pearson 1959, Potter et al. 1980); absent from the barrier islands (Fussell and Lyons 1990). Local and uncommon on the coastal plain, found mostly at Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base (Fussell 1994).

Found in mature woodlands with scattered forest openings or adjacent fields (Nicholson 1997). Occurs in a variety of forest types, but usually near some kind of oak (Kaufman 1996).

Nest is located in an area of dense low vegetation (Nicholson 1997), on the floor of a forested area, often at the base of a tree, under a log, or in bush (Harrison 1975). Rarely nests in trees (Fletcher 1994). Forages on the ground and also in shrubs and trees. Roosts in tall trees (Kaufman 1996)


Forest and open woodland, scrub oak, deciduous or mixed deciduous-coniferous areas, especially in mountainous regions (Subtropical and Temperate zones) (AOU 1983). Also agricultural areas in some regions, which may provide important food resources in winter (e.g., in Massachusetts, Vander Haegen et al. 1989). Roosts in trees at night. Severe winters and/or lack of winter habitat are important limiting factors in many northern areas. In a South Dakota ponderosa pine ecosystem, females with young selected mainly large meadows (Rumble and Anderson 1993).

Nests normally on the ground, usually in open areas at the edge of woods; rarely nests in trees (Fletcher, 1994, Wilson Bull. 106:562-563). In South Dakota, almost all nests initiated in April were in woodland communities whereas nests started after the first week of May were primarily in grassland communities; selected nest sites with concealing vegetation immediately above the nest; nests were placed in habitats associated with high interspersion; shrubs were strongly selected for as nesting cover in grassland; grassland nest sites had a high degree of visual obstruction immediately around the nest site (Day et al. 1991). Sites with good concealment also were selected in Arkansas (Badyaev 1995).

Occupied Landcover Map Units:
Code NameDescription NC Natural Heritage Program Equivalent
50 Coastal Plain Mixed Bottomland Forests Includes forests dominated by a variety of hardwood species, including sweetgum, cottonwood, red maple. Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwood (in part), Coastal Plain Levee Forest
49 Coastal Plain Oak Bottomland Forest Bottomland forests dominated by deciduous oak alliances. Oaks represented can include swamp chestnut, cherrybark, willow, and/or overcup oak. Inclusions of loblolly pine temporarily flooded forests occur in patches. Hydrology is temporarily to seasonally flooded. Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwoods (in part) blackwater subtype, brownwater subtype
385 Oak Bottomland Forest and Swamp Forest The swamp chestnut oak, cherrybark oak, shumard oak and sweetgum alliance is one representative. Other alliances are dominated by water, willow, and overcup oaks. Swamp forests can be dominated by sweetgum, red maple, and black gum being dominant. Loblolly can occur in combination with sweetgum and red maple, or with tulip poplar. Includes saturated and semi- to permanently flooded forests in the mountains. Piedmont/Mountain Bottomland Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Swamp Forest
63 Coastal Plain Mesic Hardwood Forests Beech dominated forests with white oak and northern red oak as possible co-dominants. Dry-mesic to mesic forests on slopes and small stream bottoms in the coastal plain. Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forest, Basic Mesic Forests
138 Coastal Plain Dry to Dry-Mesic Oak Forests Oak dominated forests of the coastal plain. Includes white oak forests with water oak or northern red oak and hickories as co-dominants. Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Basic Oak Hickory Forest, Dry Oak Hickory Forest
87 Pocosin Woodlands and Shrublands Includes pond pine woodland, low pocosin and high pocosin shrub dominated areas. Canebrakes and bay forests may be present. Pond Pine Woodlands, Peatland Canebrake, Small Depression Pocosin
42 Xeric Longleaf Pine Sandhills including a range of longleaf pine density from predominantly wiregrass, scrub oak dominated to true longleaf pine woodland. This does not include mesic or saturated flatwood types. Xeric Sandhill Scrub, Pine/Scrub Oak Sandhill, Coastal Fringe Sandhill
46 Xeric Oak - Pine Forests Mixed forest dominated by yellow pines with white or northern red oaks co-dominating. Pine Oak Heath
232 Xeric Pine-Hardwood Woodlands and Forests Mixed forest dominated by yellow pines with drier oaks including southern red, post, and chestnut oaks. Dry Oak Hickory Forest
230 Piedmont Mesic Forest American Beech - Red Oak - White Oak Forests. Mesic Mixed Hardwood
384 Piedmont/Mountain Mixed Bottomland Hardwood Forests Includes temporarily to seasonally forests dominated by hardwood species. Hardwoods include sweetgum, red maple, sycamore which co-occur in a mosaic of bottomland and levee positions. Includes alluvial hardwood forests in the mountains. Hemlock and white pine may occur as inclusions, but are generally mapped separately. Piedmont/Mountain Alluvial Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Levee Forest
383 Piedmont Mixed Successional Forest Generally loblolly mixed with successional hardwoods. Sweetgum, tulip poplar and red maple are common co-dominants in these successional forests. No equivalent
228 Piedmont Dry-Mesic Oak and Hardwood Forests Primarily oak dominated forests, white oak is often dominant, with co-dominants including . Also represented by sweetgum and tulip poplar dominated forests. Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Basic Oak Hickory Forest, Dry Oak Hickory Forest
222 Piedmont Dry-Mesic Pine Forests Loblolly dominated forests resulting from succession following clearing. This type occurs on all moisture regimes following disturbance with the exception of the extremely xeric sites. No equivalent
382 Dry Mesic Oak Pine Forests Mixed forests of the coastal plain and piedmont. Includes loblolly pine with white, southern red and/or post oak and loblolly with water oak. On basic sites of the piedmont, eastern red cedar may co-occur with post, black, and blackjack oaks. Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Xeric Hard Pan Forest, Chestnut Oak Forest, Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Dry Oak Hickory Forest
220 Piedmont Xeric Pine Forests Dry to xeric pine forests dominated by Virginia pine, shortleaf pine or Eastern Red Cedar. Pine Oak Heath
226 Piedmont Xeric Woodlands Generally post and blackjack oak dominated woodlands. White ash and pignut hickory can be found in combination with Eastern red cedar on glades. Xeric Hardpan Forest
51 Deciduous Cultivated Plantation Planted deciduous trees. Includes sweetgum and sycamore plantations. No equivalent
36 Successional Deciduous Forests Regenerating deciduous trees with a shrub stature. Commonly dominated by sweetgum, tulip poplars and maples. No equivalent
202 Residential Urban Includes vegetation interspersed in residential areas. Includes lawns, mixed species woodlots, and horticultural shrubs. Vegetation accounts for between 20 - 70% of the cover. No equivalent
522 Northern Hardwoods High Elevation forests including yellow birch, American beech, and yellow buckeye. Includes forests with Hemlock and Yellow Birch. Northern Hardwoods Forest, Boulderfield Forest
525 Appalachian Oak Forest A variety of oak forest types including Black, White, Scarlet Oaks in dry to mesic situations. Includes forests historically co-dominated by American Chestnut. High Elevation Red Oak Forest, Montane White Oak Forest
526 Appalachian Cove Forest Mixed Mesophytic forests of the mountains. Includes tuliptree, basswood, yellow buckeye and surgar maple. This class is mapped to include cove forests dominated or co-dominated by hemlock. Rich Cove Forest, Acidic Cove Forest
529 Appalachian Xeric Mixed Forest Mixed forests with Virginia, Shortleaf, Eastern White Pine, Table Mountain and Pitch pines in combination with xeric oak species. Oaks include, white, Southern Red, black, and rock chestnut. Pine Oak Heath
530 Appalachian Xeric Deciduous Forest Deciduous forests in the mountains dominated by Xeric Oak species. Species include, white, Southern red, black, and rock chestnut. High Elevation Red Oak Forest, Montane White Oak Forest
View Entire Landcover Legend
Additional Spatial Constraints:
Exclude all area outside of known range.
Exclude the outerbanks.
Exclude areas of intensive human activity including moderately to highly developed landscapes.
Pack, J. C., W. K. Igo, and C. I. Taylor. 1988. Use of prescribed burning in conjunction with thinning to increase wild turkey brood range habitat in oak-hickory forests. Trans. NE Sect. Wildl. Soc. 45:37-48.

Rumble, M. A., and S. H. Anderson. 1992. Stratification of habitats for identifying habitat selection by Merriam's turkeys. Great Basin Nat. 52:139-144.

Rumble, M. A., and S. H. Anderson. 1993. Habitat selection of Merriam's turkey (MELEAGRIS GALLOPAVO MERRIAMI) hens with poults in the Black Hills, South Dakota. Great Basin Nat. 53:131-136.

Badyaev, A. V. 1995. Nesting habitat and nesting success of eastern wild turkeys in the Arkansas Ozark highlands. Condor 97:221-232.

Ligon, J. S. 1946. History and management of Merriam's wild turkey. New Mexico Dept. of Game and Fish, Albuquerque. 84 pp.

Dickson, J. G., compiler and editor. 1992. The wild turkey:biology and management. Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. xv + 463 pp.

Fussell, J. III and M. Lyons. 1990. Birds of the Outer Banks [pamphlet]. Eastern National Parks and Monument Association Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society.

Fussell, J.O. III. 1994. A birderís guide to coastal North Carolina. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press.

Vander Haegen, W. M., W. E. Dodge, and M. W. Sayre. 1988. Factors affecting productivity in a northern wild turkey population. J. Wildl. Manage. 52:127-133.

Kaufman K. 1996. Lives of North American Birds. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Zwank, P. J., T. H. White, Jr., and F. G. Kimmel. 1988. Female turkey habitat use in Mississippi River batture. J. Wildl. Manage. 52:253-260.

Nicholson CP. 1997. Atlas of the breeding birds of Tennessee. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.

Williamson, S. J. No date. Forester's guide to wildlife habitat improvement. Cooperative Extension Service, Univ. of New Hampshire. 56 pp.

Bidwell, T. G., et al. 1989. Habitat use by female eastern wild turkeys in southeastern Oklahoma. J. Wildl. Manage. 53:34-39.

Oberholser, H.C. 1974. The bird life of Texas. 2 vols. Univ. of Texas Press, Austin.

Vander Haegen, W. M., M. W. Sayre, and W. E. Dodge. 1989. Winter use of agricultural habitats by wild turkeys in Massachusetts. J. Wildl. Manage. 53:30-33.

Pearson, T.G. 1959. Birds of North Carolina. Raleigh, NC: Bynum Printing Company.

Godfrey, W.E. 1966. The birds of Canada. National Museums of Canada. Ottawa. 428 pp.

Miller, B. K. 1990. Factors affecting survival of transplanted eastern wild turkeys in Indiana. Wildl. Soc. Bull. 18:65-70.

Sanderson, G. C., and H. C. Shultz. 1973. Wild turkey management. Missouri [Dept. of Conservation?]. 355 pp.

Harrison, H.H. 1975. A field guide to bird's nests in the U.S. east of the Mississippi River. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. 257 p.

Latham, R. M. 1976 (1981). Complete book of the American wild turkey. Stackpole. 228 pp.

Harrison, C. 1978. A field guide to the nests, eggs and nestlings of North American birds. Collins, Cleveland, Ohio.

Potter, E. F., J. F. Parnell, and R. P. Teulings. 1980. Birds of the Carolinas. Univ. North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill. 408 pp.

Terres, J.K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU), Committee on Classification and Nomenclature. 1983. Check-list of North American Birds. Sixth Edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas.

Kimmel, V. L., and W. M. Tzilkowski. 1986. Eastern wild turkey responses to a tape-recorded chick call. Wildl. Soc.Bull. 14:55-59.

Pratt, H.D., P.L. Bruner, and D.G. Berrett. 1987. A field guide to the birds of Hawaii and the tropical Pacific. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. 409 pp. + 45 plates.

Willians, L. E., Jr., and D. H. Austin. 1988. Studies of the wild turkey in Florida. Univ. Florida Press, Gainesville. xxiii + 232 pp.

Day, K. S., L. D. Flake, and W. L. tucker. 1991. Characteristics of wild turkey nest sites in a mixed-grass prairie--oak-woodland mosaic in the northern great plains, South Dakota. Can. J. Zool. 69:2840-2845.

Vangilder, L. D., et al. 1987. Reproductive parameters of wild turkey hens in north Missouri. J. Wildl. Manage. 51:535-540.

Hoffman, R. W. 1991. Spring movements, roosting activities, and home-range characteristics of male Merriam's wild turkey. Southwest. Nat. 36:332-337.

Leberg, P. L. 1991. Influence of fragmentation and bottlenecks on genetic divergence of wild turkey populations. Conservation Biology 5(4):522-530.

10 March 2005
This data was compiled and/or developed by the North Carolina GAP Analysis Project.

For more information please contact them at:
NC-GAP Analysis Project
Dept. of Zoology, NCSU
Campus Box 7617
Raleigh, NC 27695-7617
(919) 513-2853