Feeding the Wild Turkey


Flies are commonly eaten by turkeys

Wild turkeys, Meleagris gallopavo, are omnivores, eating a variety of plants, seeds and insects. Insects are an important source of protein for young turkeys. Turkeys have been observed pecking more often at insects than at plants. Turkeys eat flies, true bugs, sawflies caterpillars and other soft bodied insects (primarily larvae) but eat few hard bodied insects. Turkeys will consume a wide variety of insects that are small enough to be swallowed whole. Insects that are large enough to require manipulation are avoided. Attempts to measure the contributions of insects to the turkey diet by looking at the crop contents, gut contents or turkey droppings may underestimate the percentage of insects consumed. Soft bodied insects may be digested to a state that is not identifiable in samples. Hard bodied insects or insect parts are more likely to be identified in samples, but these insects are less likely to be ingested. If your Thanksgiving turkey is free range or has been allowed to forage outdoors, it is likely that insects are a part of its diet.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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