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Ocellated Turkey

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Ocellated Turkey
Conservation status: Lower risk (nt)
Ocellated Turkey
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Aves
Order:Galliformes
Family:Meleagrididae
Genus:Meleagris
Species:M. ocellata
Binomial name
Meleagris ocellata
Cuvier, 1820
Distribution map
Distribution map

The Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata) is a large bird around 70-90 cm long and 3 kg (female) to 4 kg (male) weight. In the past, it has sometimes been treated in a genus of its own, as Agriocharis ocellata, but the differences between this species and Meleagris gallopavo are too small to justify generic segregation.

A more colourful bird than its northern relative the Wild Turkey, this species has a much more restricted distribution and is only found in the subtropical lowlands of the Yucatan peninsula in southeast Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Its name comes from the presence of eye spots on the tail feathers.

The bare skin on the head and neck is light blue with orange-yellow knob-like wattles on the top of the head that are used during displays. The wings and tail are broad and rounded with shimmering metallic bronze primaries and metallic emerald-green shoulders. The feathers are dark, metallic brown, barred with metallic shimmering green that looks black in poor light.

Missing image
Meleagris_ocellata_1.jpg
19th century naturalist picture of an Ocellated Turkey

Turkeys spend most of the time on the ground and often prefer to run to escape danger through the day rather than fly, though they can fly swiftly and powerfully for short distances as the majority of birds in this order do in necessity. Roosting is usually high in trees away from night hunting predators such as Jaguars and usually in a family group. The Ocellated Turkey lacks the tuft-like beard found on the chest of male and some females of the Wild Turkey.

Female Ocellated Turkeys lay 8-15 eggs in a well concealed nest on the ground. She incubates the eggs for 28 days. The young are precocial and able to leave the nest after one night. They then follow their mother until they reach young adulthood when they begin to range though often re-grouping to roost.

The voice is similar to the northern species too, the male making the "Gobbling" sound during the breeding season, while the female bird makes a "clucking" sound.

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