Turkey  Information  We  Should  Know

There are six (6) subspecies of turkey in the United States.  There are three (3) subspecies here in Washington State.  The Merriam's turkey is here in NCW.

Each year WSA scours the hills conducting a survey to find out how many turkey are here in the North Central Washington area.       

NOTE:  If you feed the birds,  they will  STAY!

Physical Description

Although approximately the same size as the Eastern, the Merriam has different coloration. It is black with blue, purple and bronze reflections. White feathers on the lower back and tail feather margins distinguish the Merriam from other subspecies of turkey. The margins have a dull white appearance. Merriam’s appear to have a white rump due to pinkish buff, or whitish tail coverts and tips. The tail feathers are very conspicuous when the gobbler struts against a dark background. Toms have black-tipped breast feathers, while the hens exhibit buff tips. Hens have a more extensive white area on the wings giving a whiter appearance when the wings are folded.

Average Weight Range

Mature Merriam wild turkeys weigh from eight to over 20 pounds.


Breeding occurs during the spring and summer months (May through August). The increase of daylight hours in spring triggers hormonal changes. Gobbling is used to attract receptive females for mating in late February to early March. Males exhibit both gobbling and strutting to attract females. Gobbling attracts the hen to the male, who then courts the female by strutting. If the gobbler is successful, the female will crouch to signal the male to begin copulation. The first peak time for gobbling occurs at the beginning of breeding season when gobblers are searching for hens. The second peak begins a few weeks later, when most hens begin incubation. Gobblers mate with several hens, and it is generally the adult males who do most of the mating. Hens lay anywhere from 8 to 12 eggs per clutch, averaging about 28 days for incubation.

Food Usage/Selection

Wild turkeys are omnivores, eating a variety of plant and animal matter wherever and whenever available. Poults, or young turkey, eat large quantities of insects and other animal matter to get needed protein for development. As turkeys age, plant matter becomes the primary food source with about 90 percent of the mature turkey’s diet including the green foliage of grasses, vines, forbs, acorns, buds, seeds and various fruits. 

Interesting Tidbits

Turkeys will answer thunder from an approaching storm with calls of their own.  Turkey hunting is one of the most popular forms of hunting.  Hens produce droppings in shapes like a mound, and the gobbler’s droppings are in a straight line or resemble the letter “J.”

Source: Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife | Learn more about turkey