Quick Facts: The Georgia Wild Turkey

Current Georgia turkey population: ~335,000 Birds

Number of turkey hunters in Georgia: ~44,000 Hunters

2011 Georgia turkey harvest: ~26,500 Birds

Sub-Species found in Georgia: Eastern

Average lifespan of a wild turkey: 2-10 years (it is fairly rare for a wild turkey to live past 3 years of age)

Diet: Wild turkeys are omnivorous. They will eat a wide variety of food items including: acorns, berries, ferns, nuts, roots, sedges, grasses, insects, and even small reptiles and amphibians. Young turkeys, especially during their first two weeks of life require a high protein food source and feed heavily on a wide variety of insects.

Interesting Facts:

  • Adult turkeys are surprisingly quick when they need to be, capable of running up to 12mph and flying up to 50mph.
  • Only two North American birds have been domesticated by man – the turkey and the muscovy duck.
  • Noted for their sharp eyesight, turkeys can twist their neck 360 degrees to spot danger in all directions.
  • The gobble that is produced by the tom turkey can be heard for up to a mile.
  • Wild turkeys are the largest game bird in North America.
  • The turkey’s featherless head can change color rapidly when excited, and will often ‘light up’ in bright white, pink, blue and red colors when exited.
  • Most tom turkeys have at least one beard that protrudes from their chest, but in some populations, as many as 10-20% of hens may also have thin beards.

The restoration of the wild turkey is one of Georgia’s great conservation success stories. Although the bird population currently hovers around 335,000 statewide, as recently as 1973, the wild turkey population was as low as 17,000. Intensive restoration efforts, such as the restocking of wild birds and establishment of biologically sound hunting seasons facilitated the recovery of wild turkeys in every county. This successful effort resulted from cooperative partnerships between private landowners, hunters, conservation organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Wildlife Resources Division.

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