Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) Male, 46" long, female, 37" long
Of the numerous kinds of wild turkeys in the U.S. and Mexico, the Merriam subspecies is the one found in the mountains of the southwestern U.S. and the one commonly seen in the Huachuca mountains of Cochise County. Wild turkeys have the ability to fly but most seem to prefer hiking. They run better and more often than they fly. Their diet consists of both animal and plant food, with the animal portion coming from beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, and caterpillars. The plant food is what is common on the higher, mountainous ground that they prefer--pine nuts, oak, ragweed, and other wild seeds and fruits. They seem to be particularly fond of acorns and beechnuts, but they also consume many small seeds. They forage in small groups by walking along the ground and scratching in the leaf litter. They sometimes climb trees or shrubs to eat berries. They seem to forage most actively in early morning and evening. Although turkeys live in family flocks in the summer, they often separate in fall and winter, possibly because food is harder to find during those times.
Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service photo by Gary Stolz. You can download this and many other interesting animal photos at http://images.fws.gov/