MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Did you know there are five subspecies of wild turkey in North America? However, Florida is the only place in the world where the Osceola subspecies lives.
Also known as the Florida wild turkey, this unique bird lives only on the Florida peninsula. It is similar to the eastern subspecies, which is found in north Florida, but tends to be smaller and darker.
Many people don’t know that wild turkeys are powerful fliers. They can fly as fast as 55 miles per hour for short distances. However, to conserve energy, turkeys spend most of their time on the ground, where they search for acorns, seeds, fruits, leaves, insects, small reptiles, frogs, snails and more. They are woodland birds, preferring open forests and where forests and fields meet.
Wild turkeys are social animals and typically flock together in groups. These wary birds have excellent eyesight and will run away or fly to a tree to escape danger. At night, they roost in trees to avoid ground predators.
“Wild turkeys are an amazing conservation success story in Florida and across North America,” said Brian Yablonski, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Chairman. “They had almost disappeared by the turn of the century, with populations remaining in remote pockets of habitat. However, thanks to science-based wildlife restoration efforts, today Osceola and eastern wild turkeys are thriving throughout the state.”
Because the Osceola subspecies is only found in Florida, the Sunshine State is a must-hunt destination for hunters pursuing their Grand Slam, an accomplishment where people harvest all four U.S. subspecies of wild turkey.
For those lucky enough to harvest a gobbler, wild turkey meat is leaner than store-bought birds and provides a delicious and clean-eating alternative for the Thanksgiving feast.