Florida Hunter Safety Course


Game Animals

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

Florida is home to the Florida wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo osceola), also referred to as the Osceola, and the eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris). The Florida wild turkey is found only in peninsular Florida. North of the peninsula it intergrades with the eastern subspecies. The Florida wild turkey is similar to the eastern wild turkey, but is smaller and darker in color. It is best distinguished from the eastern subspecies, which it closely resembles, by its darker wing feathers. The white bars on the primary wing feathers are narrower than the black bars and are irregular or broken.

The eastern subspecies (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) wild turkey ranges the farthest north. Individuals can grow to be among the largest of any of the subspecies with the adult male, called a gobbler or tom, measuring up to four feet tall at maturity and weighing more than 20 pounds.

The Osceola turkey is unique to Florida. A true Osceola bird can be found in the peninsula from about Gainesville south. Turkeys to the north could be a cross between the eastern and the Osceola or a pure eastern strain. Male turkeys have red wattles, or skinflaps, at the throat and a red, white or blue head. This is why you should never wear or display these colors when hunting turkeys. The hen is smaller in size, always with a gray head. The female will sometimes have a beard, which makes it legal by definition, to harvest.


When calling turkeys, it is wise to use only a hen call to avoid being mistaken for a gobbler by another hunter. Often turkey hunters are in a blind and well camouflaged so be sure not to shoot at calls or sounds. Identify the turkey, and what is beyond, before you pull the trigger. The turkey is one of Florida's two resident upland game birds, this means you do not have to plug your shotgun to a maximum of three shells. They feed on berries, seeds and insects.

Source: FWC Hunter Education Program