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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

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

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The most distinct vocalization is the song of the male marking the reproductive season, often called “singing” as opposed to “gobbling” of the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo). The distinctive song is preempted by 3-7 deep drumming sounds followed by a unique trill conducted with the head and neck in a vertical position. Leopold (1959) phonetically describes the vocalization as, “ting-ting-ting—co-on-cot-zitl-glung,” illustrating the difficulty of describing the call in words. This vocalization is only made by males and takes place from the ground and roost trees during the breeding season. When singing, males extend head and neck straight up into the air. The singing is heard most frequently in the early morning (Gonzalez et al. 1996). Steadman et al. (1979) estimated that the singing vocalization could be heard from a distance of 500 m.

Steadman et al. (1979) identified five additional vocalization made by Ocellated Turkeys:

Put: A short, low, nasal call, the put given by males and females used as an alarm call or to locate other turkeys. Puts were given at frequencies ranging from 6-30 per minute. Steadman et al. (1979) also noted that birds occasionally emitted this call once while on the roost.

Whistle: A high call of approximately 0.5 seconds given by females and yearling males. Vocalization observed frequently in forest habitats and presumably used as a locator call.

Beep: Resembling the call of the American Woodcock (Philohela minor); function unknown.

Hee-haw: A nasal call of two notes.

Canada goose call: A highly pitched yell that may decrease in pitch at the end of the vocalization and is similar to the call of the Canada Goose (Branta canadensis).

Taylor et al. (2009) reports that Ocellated Turkeys are not as vocal as Wild Turkeys and suggests that this may be a predator avoidance strategy. The majority of calling takes place from the ground. Males will also frequently sing from the roost during the reproductive season.

Nonvocal Sounds

Males rattle pinions against the ground during reproductive displays. Audible wing-flapping accompanies flight in a manner similar to many gallinaceous birds.

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