Thursday, September 25, 2014

Merriam's Wild Turkey

While in Custer State Park in South Dakota we ran into Merriam's wild turkeys on two occasions, both near the Blue Bell Lodge, and I'm sure they are probably the same turkeys seen on different days. The first time we saw them they were off the side of the road going up the side of a hill. The next morning I saw them very early on the lawn in front of the Blue Bell Lodge. They were named in 1900 in memory of Clinton Hart Merriam, the first chief of the U.S. Biological Survey. One of the Merriam's distinguishing characteristics, from other turkey subspecies, is that the tail and lower back has white tips and purple and bronze reflections. 
This is a great range map put out by the NWTF. The Merriam's is in purple. 

This almost appears to be a Rio Grande turkey as it has feathers with a green/coppery sheen. But I'm sticking with the range distribution map for identification. 
In August 1994, while driving near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, I saw my first wild turkeys. It was a mother turkey and her chicks. According to the range map above, these appear to be Merriam's turkeys. 
Turkey and chicks near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.


  1. Great photos. The tail feathers almost look like a wood carving. (Which is ironic, since if we were looking at a really good wood carving, we'd say, "Wow, the feathers look real!")

  2. Great pictures! I've seen plenty of wild turkeys, but I don't think I've ever seen a group of chicks with their mom.