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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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Distribution in the Americas

Resident populations are found in the Mexican peninsular states of Campeche, Yucatán , and Quintana Roo and are reported in Tabasco and Chiapas. Ocellated Turkeys are also found in the Petén region of Guatemala and northern Belize. The species is highly localized within its range and fine-scale distribution data are unknown. Breeding range coincides with occupied range.

Stephens (1841) reports encountering Wild Turkeys in Honduras, however, as noted by Leopold (1948) native people of the region, and presumably early explorers, may indiscriminately refer to Great Curassows (Crax rubra) as “turkeys.”

Distribution outside the Americas

This species is not found outside of North America (Mexico) and Central America (Guatemala and Belize).


Ocellated Turkeys are found in lowland dry-tropics characteristic of Chicle-zapote (Achras spp.) and Ramon (Brosimum spp.) forests, forest gaps and edge, open savannas, marshlands, and scrub-regrowth habitats. They also utilize agricultural areas, with levels of crop production ranging from milpa subsistence agriculture to industrial production. Agricultural areas are frequently surrounded by jungle environments creating a habitat mosaic that supports large populations by providing forest cover and clearings, a functional habitat for Ocellated Turkeys (Gonzalez et al. 1996). Leopold (1948) noted the utilization of agriculture by Ocellated Turkeys and the longevity of this association dating back to the time of the Mayan people, a civilization that cleared jungle to produce crops (Pohl 1996). Steadman et al. (1979) reports Ocellated Turkeys roosting on horizontal branches of trees 5–11 m above ground; trees possessing such characteristics are necessary habitat requirements. Open areas or clearings are used by males during breeding season for displaying. Ocellated Turkeys are often most visible in the protected Mayan ruin areas such as Tikal and Calakmul where local birds have been habituated to the presence of humans and are often quite tame.

Historical changes

Ocellated Turkeys have been extirpated from portions of their historic range due to unregulated subsistence hunting, logging, and dry season burning.

Fossil history

Fossil records indicate that Ocellated Turkey was a food source of indigenous Mayan people of the Neotropics (Hamblin and Rea 1985). Additional fossil records indicate that birds were once present on Isla Cozumel, Mexico. However, this could have been the result of Ocellated Turkeys serving as a source of food and resulting trade among Mayan people (Hamblin and Rea 1985). There are no reports of domestication.

Distribution of the Ocellated Turkey
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Ocellated Turkey

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