Talkin’ Turkey: The Rio Grande & Merriam’s Subspecies

Since the Eastern Wild Turkey’s habitat is the largest and they are the bird you are most likely to see, I’ll be comparing the 2 today to the Eastern.  Next time, I’ll spend time with tips for hunting the Eastern.

By explaining them in reverse order, this gives the reader an opportunity to scratch their head and say, “What was she thinking?”

Rio Grande Wild Turkeys

Rios are Turkeys for the Desert & Dry, Open Areas!

Looking at a bearded Rio from the side, or above, he looks almost like polished copper.  It’s great camouflage for hiding in his habitat — sun-soaked desert areas.

How can you find Rios?  They need food, water to drink and live oaks for roosting.

Where there are no live oaks, check out the cottonwoods, sycamores and hackberries.

Their strut zones can be anywhere in the open country where Rios live.  One distinctive thing about the Rios has to do with traveling.

After they leave their roost in the morning, they may travel a long distance before settling again.  If you recall, in Just How Much Land Do Turkeys Need, I made the point that turkeys are not migratory.

However, in the huge expanses of dry, arid land of Texas, Rios may need to travel larger distances to find sufficient food for the members of the group.

Merriam’s Wild Turkey

Merriam's are Distinctive: Tipped White Tail Feathers & More Black Feathers Instead of Brown

Often called Rocky Mountain turkeys because of their habitat, these gobblers prefer to roost in ponderosa pines (in canyons), near creek beds. On the eastern edge of their habitat, where there are no pines, the gobblers roost in hardwoods.

Unique Features of the Merriam’s Turkey

Merriam’s prefer acorns, but there are few oaks in their range.  If you see, however,  a small oak, known as the Gambel — Merriam’s turkeys will try to use these smallish tree for food and roosting.

Merriam’s hens also are drawn to Gambel oaks.  They use these trees for nesting areas and food.  Since the hens are in the oaks, toms will likely be there too.

Traveling in good-sized, mixed groups (hens, jakes, toms and jennys) is a pattern of the Merriam’s. Unlike the Eastern turkey, these Rocky Mountain turkeys tend to find a new roost each night.


Next Time: the Eastern Wild Turkey Subspecies


This blog is a companion to my website: