Ocellated Turkey: The “Other” Thanksgiving Turkey

Male Ocellated Turkey

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Bruno Girin

Tales concerning the North American Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallipavo) and its home cousins abound as Thanksgiving approaches. And positively this spectacular and economically vital chicken is worthy of consideration (please see articles linked under). However there may be one other turkey – and just one – a breathtakingly stunning chicken that’s largely missed by zoos and personal aviculturists alike. I had the great fortune of working with this species, the Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata), on the Bronx Zoo. Bringing to thoughts a turkey-peafowl hybrid, this fascinating chicken is threatened by poaching and habitat loss, and deserves extra consideration from chicken fanatics. In the present day I’ll check out its pure historical past and captive care.



The male Ocellated Turkey’s physique is clad in a mixture of highly-iridescent bronze and inexperienced feathers; within the solar they’re actually spectacular. The hens are a bit less-brilliant in coloration, however nonetheless very engaging. The blue-gray tail feathers are adorned with giant, spherical blue and bronze spots (ocellus). The intense blue head and neck bear pink and orange nodules, that are extra pronounced in males.


North American Wild Turkey

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by D. Gordon E. Robertson

A blue crown, which turns into bigger within the breeding season, tops the male’s head; pink eye rings develop right now as properly. The leg spurs, used when battling different males, are noticeably bigger than these of the North American Wild Turkey (please see photograph).


Considerably smaller than their North American relative (and far smaller than barnyard variations!), males often high out at 11-12 kilos in weight.



The Ocellated Turkey is present in Mexico and Central America, the place it ranges from the Yucatan Peninsula to central Belize and northern Guatemala.


Ocellated Turkey habitat

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Allan Patrick


Ocellated Turkeys inhabit brushy grasslands, thorn scrub, open lowland forests, rainforest edges, riverside thickets and deserted farms. Open habitats are utilized through the breeding season, however they by no means wander removed from thick cowl.


Weight-reduction plan

The pure food plan seems to be as assorted as is that of the North American Wild Turkey. Leaves, berries and different fruits, nuts, seeds, small snakes, lizards, spiders, worms, bugs and different invertebrates are taken with equal relish. Discipline research point out that chicks subsist largely upon bugs, however captive born kids take a variety of meals.


From egg to grownup, Ocellated Turkeys face predators ranging in measurement from coatis and snakes to pumas and jaguars. Consequently, they continue to be cautious and alert even after a number of generations in captivity.


Ocellated Turkeys in Captivity

I stored Ocellated Turkeys in closely planted-outdoor reveals provisioned with heated shelters. They had been considerably high-strung and all the time on guard, however did wonderful so long as dense cowl was obtainable. I don’t imagine they might thrive in naked reveals. Though some European zoos permit their turkeys outside entry on heat winter days, these I’ve labored with appeared fairly cold-sensitive and had been stored indoors through the late fall and winter.


Ocellated Turkeys should not fussy eaters and readily settle for business turkey chow, however I strove to supply an excessive amount of dietary selection. They particularly favored the crickets, mealworms and different bugs I tossed in most days, and regularly searched the leaf litter for snacks at different occasions.


Breeding in zoos is sporadic, with extra success being had in Europe, particularly Belgium, than within the USA. They’re uncommon in non-public collections, and stay very costly.


Standing within the Wild

Ocellated Turkeys are categorised as “Close to Threatened” by the IUCN and are listed on Appendix III of CITES.


They’re hunted, usually illegally, all through a lot of their vary. Males lose a lot of their attribute warning through the breeding season, and make simple targets as they show in open grassy areas. Habitat loss to logging and agricultural growth additionally threatens their survival.


Even in undisturbed habitats, their obvious “tastiness” to non-human predators ends in important losses. One examine discovered that 85% of the chicks hatched in June didn’t survive till September; 30% of the breeding hens had been taken by predators throughout the identical time interval.


The Ocellated Turkey’s stronghold seems to be within the Maya Biosphere Reserve of Guatemala and northern Belize, however detailed surveys are missing.




Additional Studying

Wild Turkey Raised by Peafowl

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