Mexican turkey /Ocellated Turkey/Meleagris ocellata

There are only two species of turkey in the world; the North American wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), divided into five distinct subspecies, and the ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata). The Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata) is a species of turkey residing primarily in the Yucatán Peninsula. A relative of the more common Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), it was sometimes previously treated in a genus of its own (Agriocharis ocellata) but the differences between this species and Meleagris gallopavo are too small to justify generic segregation. The ocellated turkey is a conspicuous, vibrant-coloured bird that can be easily distinguished from the only other turkey species, its larger and less colorful North American cousin, the North American wild turkey (Maleagris gallopavo).

Meleagris ocellata it is relatively a large bird, at around 70 -122 cm (28 – 48 in) long and an average weight of 3 kg (6.6 lbs) in females and 5 kg (11 lbs) in males. Female Ocellated Turkeys lay 8 – 15 eggs in a well concealed nest on the ground. She incubates the eggs for 28 days. The young are precocial and able to leave the nest after one night. They then follow their mother until they reach young adulthood when they begin to range though often re-grouping to roost. The plumage exhibits a rich mosaic of bright iridescent greens, blues and reds with most of the feathers tipped in white or red, resulting in its distinctive scaled appearance.

Both sexes have blue heads with some orange or red nodules, which are more pronounced on males. The males also have a fleshy blue crown covered with nodules, similar to those on the neck, behind the snood. During breeding season this crown swells up and becomes brighter and more pronounced in its yellow-orange color. The eye is surrounded by a ring of bright red skin, which is most visible on males during breeding season. The legs are deep red and are shorter and thinner than on North American turkeys. Males over one year old have spurs on the legs that average 4 cm (1.5 inches), which lengths of over 6 cm (2.5 inches) being recorded. These spurs are much longer and thinner than on North American turkeys. The Ocellated Turkey lives only in a 130,000 km (50,000 sq mi) range of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico which includes the states of Quintana Roo, Campeche and Yucatán, as well as parts of southern Tabasco and northeastern Chiapas.

They also can be found in the northern parts of Belize and Guatemala. European explorers took Wild Turkeys to Europe from Mexico in the early 1500s. They were so successfully domesticated in Europe that English colonists brought them back with them when they settled on the Atlantic Coast. The domestic form has retained the white tail tip of the original Mexican subspecies, and that character can be used to distinguish wandering barnyard birds from wild turkeys which have chestnut-brown tail tips. According to William Rubel, an expert in traditional American foods, the first birds arrived in Spain in 1498, where they were embraced – turkey was the New World food most easily adopted by Europeans. Mutations occurred, and different breeds of turkeys developed, including the Black and the White Holland. Turkey was established in England by the 1540’s. By the 1570’s they were raised throughout the country, and were already part of the Christmas feast. Rubel quotes a writer praising the joys of a “well drest turkey” for Christmas dinner, almost 50 years before the Pilgrims set sail.

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7 Responses to Mexican turkey /Ocellated Turkey/Meleagris ocellata

  1. kimkiminy says:

    So beautiful! We have wild turkeys here. Their feathers can be iridescent when the sun hits them right. But these guys are much more colorful! They almost look like peacocks.

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