How Do Turkeys Mate?

U.S. Department of Agriculture/CC-BY-2.0

Male wild turkeys mate by strutting, displaying their tail feathers and gobbling to attract females, which then build ground nests and usually lay eight to 15 eggs. They are a polygynous species and breed once annually. Turkey courtship typically takes place in January or February.

During the strutting ritual, males walk with their wings lowered to the ground and their tails fanned out, which makes them appear imposing and heavily plumed. Many males roost in trees while shouting out mating calls. The sound of their noisy gobbling carries more than a mile away, according to Animal Diversity Web. A wild turkey can become sexually mature within 10 months of hatching, but the youngest males often lack the ability to compete for mates.

Once pregnant, females search for a suitable nesting ground near fields or woodlands and take full responsibility as caregivers. They store their eggs in shallow holes in the ground covered by foliage, which conceals them from predators, such as skunks, raccoons, foxes and bobcats. Females may also save time by simply taking over an existing nest used by other turkeys or wild fowl. Wild turkeys usually incubate their eggs for up to 31 days, and the resulting hatchlings are capable of walking and foraging within one day of being born. While male turkeys leave their young before they hatch, most females look after their hatchlings until the next spring.