Although the domesticated turkey has been deemed foolish and easily confused, the Wild Turkey is a game animal of considerable cunning. With its wingspan of 5 feet (1.8 metres), this turkey is also by far the largest bird in the open forests in which it lives, and is rarely mistaken for any other.
As with many galliform species, the female is smaller than the male, and less colourful. It has been speculated that the Central American species is more tractable than its northern counterpart, and was the source of the present domesticated stock.
When Europeans first encountered the turkey in the Americas, they incorrectly identified it with the African Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris), also known as the turkey-cock from its importation to Europe through Turkey, and the name stuck. It remains also in the scientific name: meleagris is Greek for guinea-fowl.
This group is related to other members of the gamebird family as follows.
- ORDER GALLIFORMES
- Family Megapodiidae: mound-builders
- Family Cracidae: chachalacas, guans and curassows
- Family Tetraonidae: grouse
- Family Phasianidae: partridges, pheasants, quail, and allies
- Family Odontophoridae: New World quail
- Family Numididae: guineafowl
- Family Meleagrididae
- Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo
- Ocellated Turkey, Agriocharis ocellata.
- Family Mesitornithidae: mesites