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What Does a Wild Turkey Eat?

What Does a Wild Turkey Eat?

You’re a hunter. You hunt, process, and cook the game you harvest. But as you enjoy your favorite wild game recipes, did you ever wonder what your games last meal was?

The Missouri Department of Conservation recently conducted a study on wild turkey diets. Like many birds, turkeys have whats called a crop. The crop is a muscular pouch near the throat that is a part of a turkey’s gastrointestinal tract. This allows turkeys to eat an abundance of food and store it in the crop to be digested later. During the study, they found collected the crop from a hen and found crickets, corn, spiders, and nut sedge bulbs, and grass seeds inside.

Well, that’s pretty neat (or gross, depending on how you look at it). But their diets don’t stop there. Since the five different subspecies of turkeys live in different environments, they consume different foods:

Eastern Wild Turkey:

  • Acorns of red, white, chestnut and black oaks; beech nuts, black cherry, wild grape, spicebush
  • Seeds of white ash, ironwood, water beech, hawthorn, witch hazel, flowering dogwood
  • Seeds of native grasses and sedges; leaves of Carex spp. (Sedges), Lycopodium spp. (Club Moss), evergreen ferns; winter buds of hemlock and hardwoods; fronds of sensitive fern, burdock; chufa
  • Beetles, other insects, salamanders, snails

Florida Wild Turkey:

  • Live oak acorns, black gum fruits, berries of cabbage palm, pine seeds
  • Panic grasses, carpet grass, chufa
  • Dragonflies, grasshoppers, caterpillars, snails

Rio Grande Wild Turkey:

  • Acorns; skunkberry, doveweed, hackberry, cedar elm, pecan, prickly pear cactus
  • Paspalum and other grasses
  • Insects and other invertebrates

Merriam’s Wild Turkey:

  • Grasses, forbs, alfalfa, sweetclover, sunflowers, vetch
  • Fruits and seeds of Ponderosa pine, oaks, manzanita, skunkbush, sedges; oats
  • Insects and other invertebrates

Gould’s Wild Turkey:

  • Acorns, pinon nuts, juniper berries, fruits of manzanita, onion, skunkbush, wild grape
  • Mustard forbs; grasses
  • Insects and other invertebrates

Wild turkeys also consume grit (course seeds and small pebbles) from spring seeps and ground foraging which is a critical digestive component of the diet. They also occasionally eat frogs, salamanders, toads, lizards, snakes, fiddler crabs and other small vertebrates and invertebrates.

And now you know. Just something to think about!
Hunting Turkey Wild Game

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