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A Peek Inside the Turkey Nursery

August 23, 2021

A Peek Inside the Turkey Nursery

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Helen Solecki Helen Solecki

Meet our ocellated turkeys (Meleagris ocellata).

These turkeys are native to the Yucatan peninsula and other areas of Central America. They are one of only two species of turkey in the world – the other being the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) native to North America.

In the wild, female turkeys will lay 8-15 eggs in what we call a single “clutch”.  After a period of incubation, the young poults that hatch rely on their mother for protection, however, these chicks are “precocial”. This means that the chicks hatch with certain skills already in place. With encouragement from mom, a healthy baby turkey is able to vocalize, seek shelter, drink, and forage for food like seeds, fruit, and small bugs.

This year, we are raising six ocellated turkey poults in our nursery at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo. It is a significant hatch because our turkey population at the zoo offers conservationists a closer glimpse into their behavior and biology, increases our zoo population, and offers visitors an important chance to get to know this unique species.

The ocellated turkey is Near Threatened according to IUCN Red List of Threatened Species classifications. This is due to disruptive human activity including deforestation, logging, farming, and other industry in their range. The occasional hunting of these birds puts further pressure on a declining population. The WCS’s global field program in Guatemala works to address these complex problems. Our work in the Maya Biosphere Reserve spanning areas of Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico conserves the ocellated turkey’s natural habitat.

Visit the Bronx Zoo’s World of Birds building to learn more and see our adult ocellated turkeys in person while our poults continue growing and exploring behind the scenes.

Nikon D810

Bronx, US Map It


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Barbara Grannis
August 23, 2021 at 2:39 pm

Who knew that there was more than one sort of turkey? Interesting that the young are essentially able to look after themselves.

Keep up the good work!


August 23, 2021 at 4:07 pm

They are so adorable! Keep up the good work!

Elaina Crocitto
August 23, 2021 at 7:13 pm


April 28, 2022 at 5:10 pm

Have there been efforts to try to establish this species in the Southern United States?

    Helen Solecki
    June 14, 2022 at 8:39 pm

    Hi Tim, thanks for your question. Attempts to establish a population in the United States have never occurred, but birds have been trapped and relocated to reestablish populations that have been lost within the species’ historic range.