Wild Turkeys of Alberta

by David Lilly
January 29, 2015



Wild Turkey Alberta by Dave Lilly ©

When another photographer told me about a flock of Wild Turkeys south of Calgary I had to go and photograph them. The last opportunity I had to photograph wild Turkeys was in Cypress Hills Provincial park, Alberta. The Common Name: Wild Turkey, is also referred to as: Merriam’s Turkey Genus species: Meleagris gallopavo.


Wild Turkey Alberta by Dave Lilly ©


In North America Wild Turkeys( Meleagris gallopavo) are traditionally found from southern Ontario, south through the eastern United States; in addition to the south-western United States and Mexico. Within Alberta, the Wild Turkey was first introduced in 1962 in the Cypress Hills Provincial Park; they have since been introduced to the Porcupine Hills, near Stettler, along the Milk River, along the Belly River, Lees Lake, and Todd Creek area; and can be found within the Grassland and Rocky Mountain Natural Regions.



General Description:

  • Total length: Male, 100-125 cm; female, 76-95 cm

  • Wingspan ranges from 125-144 cm

  • Weight: Males, 5-11 Kg; females, 3-5.4 kg

  • Large fan-shaped tail, long neck, long powerful legs, long beak

  • Wild Turkey males possess a waddle, snood and caruncle. The head and neck are mostly bare skin. Metallic-iridescent feathering of the body is dark on males; tipped with white or rust on females. The beard of Meleagris gallopavo consists of a tuft of coarse bristles that hang down from the upper breast, typical of males, and is not as fully developed on females. Length of bristles may vary from 139 to 325 mm. In the spring, the male’s head is red to bluish-white in contrast to the dull grey of the female.

  • Males have spurs on the tarsals which reach full development in the adult; these can average 24 mm in length.


Wild Turkey Alberta by Dave Lilly ©



Wild Turkeys are most often found within mature deciduous forests with scattered openings. The Turkeys I photographed were in a foothills open area surrounded byAspen trees.


Winter habitat is often open fields, including crop fields; as well as small riparian areas surrounding seeps and springs. Nesting of the Wild Turkey often occurs within wooded habitats; brooding habitat includes fields or grassy meadows, where insects are plentiful. Once the young  can fly, the flock will roost in trees at night.


Wild Turkey Alberta by Dave Lilly ©


The breeding season occurs between early April and early June. During courtship the tom (male) exhibits an elaborate feather display accompanied by slow movements. During the courtship display, feathers on the back, breast, and flank are erected, wings are lowered to the ground, and the tail is held upright and spread like a large fan. The neck is pulled back against the body and held in an S-shape.


Wild Turkey Alberta by Dave Lilly ©


If you think about photographing Wild Turkeys I would recommend the following equipment:

  • Any Camera will do.
  • A 300mm F4  or a 500mm f4
  • A flash will be needed on overcast days because the turkeys are dark. As matter of fact you might want to try a fill flash even on sunny days.

Wild Turkey Alberta by Dave Lilly ©


A few reminders, the turkeys I photographed were on private land, I don't recommend jumping fences always seek permission first. As per any other bird the normal ethics apply. A word of caution Wild Turkeys can be aggressive during matting season. Have fun photographing the Wild Turkeys.



David Lilly portrait


David Lilly is a professional nature photographer living and working in Calgary, AB he also teaches photo workshops. His photos have been published in PhotoLife, Calgary's Natural Parks, Alberta Nature Magazine and Fine Scale Military Modeler. Dave shoots with Nikon equipment. This is Dave's 9th article for the Canadian Nature photographer. David is also founder of the Calgary Camera Club.

David Lilly
E-mail: dlilly@shaw.ca
Web site: http://www.canadianbirdphotographer.ca/

Phone: 403 236-8587 (Cell)

This is David Lilly's 13th article for the Canadian Nature photographer.


See David's other Bird Photography articles on the Canadian Nature photographer

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