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Ocellated Turkey Meleagris ocellata

Jon T. McRoberts, Terrell D. Rich, Claudia I. Rodríguez-Flores, Carlos A. Soberanes-González, and Marîa del Coro Arizmendi
Version: 1.0 — Published May 4, 2012


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Singing by males begins in February (Gonzalez et al. 1996), March (Steadman et al. 1979) or April (Leopold 1948), ending in May (Leopold 1948) or June (Lint 1977). The variation of singing initiation could be geographic, as purported by published literature and reports by locals within the Ocellated Turkey’s range. Copulation is reported to take place in March (Taylor et al. 2009) and April (Steadman et al. 1979) and begins with the male stepping on the back of the female with his tail at a 45 degree angle to the ground. The female elevates her tail while the male lowers his tail resulting in the meeting of the cloacae and insemination. Copulations take place most frequently in the early morning (Steadman et. al 1979). A dominant male has the capability to mate with many females and will prevent subdominant males from breeding.

Females appear to initiate nests in March–June (Gaumer 1881, Leopold 1948, Steadman et al. 1979), with the timing of nesting likely related to tropical seasonality. Nests are built on the ground and debris is adjusted to make a slight depression. Typical nesting habitat includes tall grass or brush, although nests are occasionally found at the base of trees or among the limbs of a fallen tree (Gaumer 1881, Gonzalez et al. 1998). Reports of nests being built in trees (Cabot 1842) are likely inaccurate and a result of misidentification or associating a roosting turkey with the nest of another species. Females have been documented to re-nest if the initial nest was lost (Gonzalez et al. 1998).

Clutch size ranges from 8 to 15 eggs (Leopold 1948). Gonzalez et al. (1998) located 5 nests and reported an average clutch size of 8.8 ± 2.5 eggs. The incubation period is reported as 28 days (Lint 1977, Steadman et al. 1979). Hatching takes place from May to July (Steadman et al. 1979). Eggs are buff-colored with fine speckles of brown and on average weigh 47.19 g and measure 60.76 x 44.2 mm (Lint 1977).

Chicks are precocial, departing the nest after hatching and following the hen on foot. Poults are able to fly to roost after two weeks and the hen will brood the chickens under her wing during the night (Lint 1977). Reports indicate that chicks are sensitive to wet weather, becoming chilled, with the condition eventually leading to death (Lint 1977).

Recommended Citation

McRoberts, J. T., T. D. Rich, C. I. Rodríguez-Flores, C. A. Soberanes-González, and M. d. C. Arizmendi (2012). Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.ocetur1.01