Wild Turkey - Meleagris gallopavo
The large size, iridescent bronze plumage, and naked bluish head should distinguish Wild Turkeys from all other birds. Males have a prominent red neck wattle, a beard, and spurs on their legs. Their back and breast feathers are tipped with black. Females are smaller, less brightly colored, and generally lack a beard (a few females have beards up to 3 inches in length). The back and breast feathers of females are tipped with yellowish brown or white. Adult males average 48 inches in length and 16.3 pounds in weight, while adult females average 34 inches in length and 9.3 pounds in weight.
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version)
Map Help and Descriptions
(direct evidence "B")
(indirect evidence "b")
No evidence of Breeding
(regular observations "W")
(at least one obs. "w")
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
Open ponderosa pine forest in rugged terrain, interspersed with grassland and brushy draws is the preferred habitat. Open ponderosa pine-grassland cover types are most widely used in the Longpine Hills during summer and early fall; canyon bottoms at lower elevations, grain fields and livestock feeding areas are utilized in late fall and winter (Rose 1956).
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
- Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
- Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
- Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
- Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
- Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if
point observations were associated with that system.
Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: mtnhp.org/requests
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.
- Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
- Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
- Foresman, K.R. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
- Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 1302 p.
- Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. 72 p.
- Maxell, B.A. 2000. Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species. Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1. Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana. 161 p.
- Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. 2004. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.
- Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
- Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Human Land Use
Recently Disturbed or Modified
Summer foods in the Judith Mountains and Longpine Hills consist of insects (primarily grasshoppers), bearberry, snowberry and skunkbrush sumac fruits, grass leaves and stems, and Carex seeds; winter foods are grains, hawthorn and snowberry fruits, and grass leaves, stems and heads (Rose 1956).
In the Judith Mountains and Longpine Hills, turkeys roosted irregularly in summer but regularly in winter. They used trees with a diameter of 10 to 20 inches, bare of foliated branches for at least the first 20 feet.
Nesting activities are associated with the edge of deciduous trees and brush. One was found nesting in a hayfield, 100 feet from the cover of trees and bushes (Mussehl and Howell 1971).
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
- Greene, R., and R. Ellis. 1971. Merriams turkey. pp. 167-173 in T.W. Mussehl and F.W. Howell (eds.), Game Management in Montana. Montana Department Fish and Game, Helena. 238 pp.
- Marks, J.S., P. Hendricks, and D. Casey. 2016. Birds of Montana. Arrington, VA. Buteo Books. 659 pages.
- Rose, B.J. 1956. Evaluation of two introductions of Merriam's Wild Turkey into Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 37 p.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
Do you know of a citation we're missing?
- American Gem Corporations. 1996. Application for an Operating Permit and Proposed Plan of Operations: Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine, Granite County, Montana. August 1996
- American Ornithologists’ Union [AOU]. 1998. Check-list of North American birds, 7th edition. American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C. 829 p.
- Anonymous. 1958. Wild turkey transplanting and restoration program. Montana Dept. of Fish and Game, Helena. 2 pp.
- Bergeson, W. R. 1954. Turkey talk. Montana Wildlife. Fall.
- Camp Dresser & McKee, Inc., 1990, Stillwater Chromite Project Baseline Data Report: Hydrology and Wildlife Monitoring, Hydrology - November 1988 through November 1989, Wildlife - November 1988 through February 1990. June 30, 1990
- Dickson, J. G. (ed). 1992. The wild turkey: biology and management. Stackpole.
- DuBois, K.L. 1979. An inventory of the avifauna in the Long Pines of Southeastern Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 113 p.
- Eaton, Stephen W. 1992. Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo). Species Account Number 022. The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology; Retrieved 3/25/2008 from The Birds of North America Online database
- Ecological Consulting Service (ECON), Helena, MT., 1972, Wildlife Investigations: 10 x 20 Mile Area, Colstrip, Montana. Project 9--01--A. Annual Report to Montana Power Company and Western Energy Company; December 1972 - December 1973. December 21, 1973.
- ECON, Inc. (Ecological Consulting Service), Helena, MT., 1976, Colstrip 10 x 20 Area wildlife and wildlife habitat annual monitoring report, 1976. Proj. 135-85-A. December 31, 1976.
- ECON, Inc. (Ecological Consulting Service), Helena, MT., 1977, Colstrip 10 x 20 Area wildlife and wildlife habitat annual monitoring report, 1977. Proj. 164-85-A. December 31, 1977.
- ECON, Inc. (Ecological Consulting Service), Helena, MT., 1979, Annual wildllife report of the Colstrip Area for 1978. Proj. 195-85-A. April 6, 1979.
- Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Schuster Inc. New York. 785 pp.
- Eng, R.L. Mgmt. 1959. Status of turkey in Montana. Proc. First Nat. Wild turkey Mgnt. Symposium. us of turkey in Montana. pp. 19-20.
- Fjell, Alan K., and Brian R. Mahan., 1983, Peabody Coal Company Big Sky Mine, Rosebud County, MT. Wildlife monitoring report: 1982 field season. May 1983.
- Fritzen, D.E. 1995. Ecology and behavior of Mule Deer on the Rosebud Coal Mine, Montana. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 143 p.
- Gobeille, J.E. 1992. The effect of fire on Merriams turkey brood habitat in southeastern Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 61 p.
- Hale, K.M. 2007. Investigations of the West Nile virus transmission cycle at Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Montana, 2005-2006. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 74 p.
- Holzer, K.A. 1989. Ecology of Merriam's wild turkey in the Helena National Forest. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 45 p.
- Johnsgard, P.A. 1992. Birds of the Rocky Mountains with particular reference to national parks in the northern Rocky Mountain region. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. xi + 504 pp.
- Jonas, R.J. 1964. Ecology and management of Merriam's turkey in the Long Pines, southeastern Montana. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 118 p.
- Latham, R. M. 1976 (1981). Complete book of the American wild turkey. Stackpole. 228 pp.
- Lenard, S., J. Carlson, J. Ellis, C. Jones, and C. Tilly. 2003. P. D. Skaar’s Montana bird distribution, 6th edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, MT. 144 pp.
- Matthews, W.L. 1980a. Wibaux-Beach comparison study: Sydney, Glendive and Plevna Study Areas. Bureau of Land Management, Miles City, MT. 50 p.
- Matthews, W.L. 1981. Broadus-Pumpkin Creek baseline inventory - wildlife. Bureau of Land Management, Miles City, MT. 83 p.
- Maxell, B.A. 2016. Northern Goshawk surveys on the Beartooth, Ashland, and Sioux Districts of the Custer-Gallatin National Forest: 2012-2014. Montana Natural Heritage Program. Helena, MT. 114pp.
- Montana Bird Distribution Committee. 2012. P.D. Skaar's Montana bird distribution. 7th Edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, Montana. 208 pp. + foldout map.
- Peabody Coal Company, Flagstaff, AZ., 1991, Wildlife monitoring report: 1990 field season, Big Sky Mine. July 1991.
- Powder River Eagle Studies, Inc., Gillette, WY., 2000, Spring Creek Mine 1999 Wildlife Monitoring. March 2000.
- Powder River Eagle Studies, Inc., Gillette, WY., 2000, Spring Creek Mine 2000 Wildlife Monitoring. March 2000.
- Rose, B. J. 1958. A turkey season in Montana? Montana Wildlife 1958(1):5-8.
- Schladweiler, Philip, and John P. Weigand., 1983, Relationships of endrin and other chlorinated hydrocarbon compounds to wildlife in Montana, 1981-1982. September 1983.
- Sibley, D. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY. 598 pp.
- Skaar, P. D., D. L. Flath, and L. S. Thompson. 1985. Montana bird distribution. Montana Academy of Sciences Monograph 3(44): ii-69.
- Skaar, P.D. 1969. Birds of the Bozeman latilong: a compilation of data concerning the birds which occur between 45 and 46 N. latitude and 111 and 112 W. longitude, with current lists for Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, impinging Montana counties and Yellowstone National Park. Bozeman, MT. 132 p.
- U.S. Forest Service. 1991. Forest and rangeland birds of the United States: Natural history and habitat use. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Agricultural Handbook 688. 625 pages.
- Waage, B.C. 1984. Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Rosebud County, Montana: Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report, 1983 Field Season. June 1984.
- Waage, B.C. 1986. Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Rosebud County, Montana: Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report, 1985 Field Season. December 1985.
- Waage, B.C. 1987. Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana: Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report, 1987 Field Season. December 1987.
- Waage, B.C. 1988. Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana: Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report, 1988 Field Season. December 1988.
- Waage, B.C. 1989. Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana: Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report, 1989 Field Season. December 1989.
- Waage, Bruce C., 1991, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana: Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report, 1990 Field Season. September 1991.
- Waage, Bruce C., 1992, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana: Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report, 1991 Field Season. December 1992.
- Waage, Bruce C., 1993, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana: Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report; 1992 Field Season. December 1993.
- Waage, Bruce C., 1993, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana: Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report; 1993 Field Season. April 1993.
- Waage, Bruce C., 1995, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana:1994 Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report; December 1, 1993 - November 30, 1994. February 27, 1995.
- Waage, Bruce C., 1998, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana: 1997 Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report; December 1, 1996 - November 30, 1997 Survey Period. March 23, 1998.
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- Westmoreland Resources, Inc., 1992, Mining and Reclamation Plan for Absaloka Mine. Book G. Wildlife. Vol. 2. Exhibit G-17. 1991 Wildlife Report. Wildlife Monitoring and Additional Baseline Inventory: Absaloka Mine Area (Western Technology and Engineering,
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- Additional Sources of Information Related to "Birds"