Habitat: Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico
Status: Near Threatened
Do not be alarmed. You have not overdosed on some psychedelic substance lurking in your sweet potatoes this Thanksgiving. This is, in fact, a real turkey called an Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata). Most people only think of the lackluster turkeys we surround ourselves with at the farm… but these are those turkeys’ colorful cousins that put the ‘trip’ in tryptophan. With iridescent feathers that glimmer and glint in every color known to man, ocellated turkeys are the most awe-worthy birds you would never think to awe over.
Ocellated turkeys are much smaller than any of the subspecies of North American wild turkey, hence their need for a bit more protection. The males are equipped with huge spurs on their legs that can reach 2.5 inches in length – much longer and thinner than those of the North American turkeys.
There’s very little information on how exactly these intimidating spurs are used, but I’m willing to guess they come in handy during breeding season.
Much like their larger, yet less ostentatious North American relatives, the males use a combination of gobbles, songs, strutting, and wing movements to attract a mate. However, the ocellated turkey’s mating call is higher pitched than the usual “gobble” and the males’ blue head is covered in bright red and yellow nodules which swell during mating season; making it look pimply-perfect.
Unfortunately, this beautiful bird is listed as ‘near threatened’ due to overhunting and deforestation. We need to get the word out about this “other” turkey this Thanksgiving, and work to protect this incredible species for future generations. No one wants a world without an acid trip turkey, after all.